“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