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New research: older people work because it brings them joy in life


The results of a new study based on interviews with older individuals who have chosen to continue to work are surprising. Despite significant variation in education and professions, participants stressed that the main incentive for continuing to work stemmed from the joy and fulfillment it brought to their lives,” says Marie Bjuhr, a researcher in nursing science at University of Gävle.

Foto: TT/Marie Linnér

Foto: TT/Marie Linnér

The Swedish Pensions Agency reports that more than 400,000 people over the age of 65 are working today, often combining wages and pension. Marie Bjuhr wanted to investigate why people choose to work after the age of 65 and used interviews to attempt to determine if there were any differences based on profession, education level, or gender.

Marie Bjuhr

Marie Bjuhr

“I felt that the debate had focused on economic incentives too much, on how older employees were either lured to continue or felt compelled for financial reasons,” she says.

Work associated with a great sense of warmth

What dominated the responses was that work was something the participants truly enjoyed, and there was a great warmth in the stories about their own professions.

“Previously, I might have thought that this applied only to those who work professionally with their hobbies. However, in most professions working was associated with joy of life, but this fact is rarely highlighted in research.

  • Hairdresser: “It’s invigorating and fun to work; it’s very creative, actually."
  • Bus driver: “I have loved holding a steering wheel since I was a little boy. Something new always happens; there are small challenges all the time."
  • Welder: “I like physical work and moving around; it’s like going to a gym session. You know you can handle it, and it feels good.”
  • Middle school teacher: “It's not just a job but a community; everyone knows you and is happy that you are there.”
  • Automotive mechanic: “It’s fun to work with what I do, and I also enjoy the customer contacts, the social aspect.”
  • Pharmacist: “When I come home from work, I have more energy for household tasks and conversations with my partner.”

- This genuine job satisfaction seems to be important for choosing to work at higher ages,” says Marie Bjuhr.

Reasons why people chose to retire surprising

As the Swedish Pensions Agency notes, more and more people are working later in life. However, the number of early retirees is also increasing, and it is unclear why they leave and who they are.

“My somewhat preconceived notions were that early retirees were people who probably didn't like their work much or had been affected by illnesses, but I was surprised again.”

While some brought up pain issues or illnesses, others stated that they had had a great job which they were passionate about.

“For these individuals, work had taken up a very large part of their lives, so they chose to retire to free up time for other things. They wanted to embrace retired life fully while their health allowed.”

For one group, changes led to the decision to retire:

  • Secretary: “My old colleagues quit, and the younger generation is not interested in us old folks.”
  • Preschool teacher: “I have always been passionate about my job, but present conditions make it impossible for us to reach our goals. I actually can’t work like this."
  • Cartographer: “I liked making maps manually, but then everything became digitalised. I’m not a tech person and felt that enough was enough."
  • High school teacher: “I've had a very good job but was offered a very good pension deal. Without that, I probably would have continued.”

Working longer for the sake of one’s own healt

Marie Bjuhr wants to highlight the benefits of healthy aging in one’s profession, and she emphasises that society needs to understand that it is not just about money and pensions.

“I think that the finding that the incentive for continuing to work was the quality of life is important,” Marie Bjuhr says.


Text: Douglas Öhrbom

Link to the doctoral dissertation: “Being Active in Working Life at Older Ages


Marie Bjuhr, PhD in nursing science at University of Gävle
Tel: 072-334 51 55
e-mail: marie.bjuhr@hig.se

Published by: Douglas Öhrbom Page responsible: Anders Munck Updated: 2024-01-15
Högskolan i Gävle
Box 801 76 GÄVLE
026-64 85 00 (växel)