Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 May 2010
The word retirement has three major meanings: an event, a process, and a social institution, and all three meanings have implications for the person who comes to a health professional for diagnosis and treatment.
Retirement is generally an event in the later life course. Employment is terminated and when paid work stops, major changes occur in a person's roles, source of income, activities, and life rhythms. Retirement is also a process because it has continuity and goes on through time. As a social institution, retirement involves governmental and private organizations, pension plans, age requirements, and the customs, practices, and behaviors that revolve around the process of stopping work in later life.
CONTEXT: GOVERNMENT AND MARKET FACTORS
The larger social and cultural context established by social policies and market forces deserves consideration for they define and establish significant parameters of retirement living. A fundamental program that shapes context is Social Security that was established more than 70 years ago. In May 2006 almost 49 million persons were beneficiaries. Primary benefits are based on indexed monthly earnings. Eighty-six percent of beneficiaries were older than 65 years of age, and 14% were younger than 65. Among the 65 years and older beneficiaries, 82% were retired workers, and 18% were survivors and dependents. In December 2005 the average benefit for all retirees was $1,002 per month. Currently, a person must be 65 to receive full benefits or age 62 for reduced benefits. Beginning in 2000 the age of entitlement will gradually rise from 65 to 67 years of age.