Retirement security goes way beyond money

New research focuses on the needs of aging adults that often go overlooked

Retirement advice is seemingly everywhere today. But nearly all of it focuses on finances. Although this is a tremendous part of living a healthy and fulfilling retirement, true security goes far beyond this singular issue.

In the May-June issue of American Psychologist, researchers outline some of the much-neglected aspects that are equally valuable as more and more Americans reach the 65+ group. As the meaning of retirement is being redefined, there is a grow gap between what older adults want and need and the support being offered by their employees and policy makers.

“In contrast to other stages in life, there are few norms or expectations in later life to guide structured activities to ensure purposeful living and establish ties to others,” said Michael Smyer, professor of psychology at Bucknell Univesity and one of the authors of the paper. “There is no organized program that all retirees must proceed through like kindergarten or a college orientation process.”

“As increasing numbers of older adults are faced with 15, 20, or 30 years of healthy living beyond the retirement age of 65, policymakers and mental health practitioners must work to ensure that our aging population also has psychological security or a sense of ‘belonging,’” Smyer added. “We must promote involvement of older adults in roles that create a sense of purpose, fulfillment and value.”

Authors called for additional legislative and regulatory efforts to assess the efforts already in place to evaluate the health, mental health, and social impact they provide. More important than a lofty dollar figure is the creation of a rewarding and engaged life where adults can continue to “matter” as they age.

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Bucknell University
Professor of Psychology