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The Impact of Age Stereotypes and Age Norms on Employees’ Retirement Choices: A Neglected Aspect of Research on Extended Working Lives

Vickerstaff, Sarah, Van der Horst, Mariska (2021) The Impact of Age Stereotypes and Age Norms on Employees’ Retirement Choices: A Neglected Aspect of Research on Extended Working Lives. Frontiers in Sociology, 6 . Article Number 686645. E-ISSN 2297-7775. (doi:10.3389/fsoc.2021.686645) (KAR id:89491)

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This article examines how older workers employ internalized age norms and perceptions when thinking about extending their working lives or retirement timing. It draws on semistructured interviews with employees (n = 104) and line managers, human resource managers and occupational health specialists (n = 52) from four organisations in the United Kingdom. Previous research has demonstrated discrimination against older

workers but this is a limiting view of the impact that ageism may have in the work setting. Individuals are likely to internalize age norms as older people have lived in social contexts in which negative images of what it means to be “old” are prevalent. These age perceptions are frequently normalized (taken for granted) in organisations and condition how people are managed and crucially how they manage themselves. How older workers and managers think and talk about age is another dynamic feature of decision making about retirement with implications for extending working lives. Amongst our respondents it was widely assumed that older age would come with worse health—what is more generally called the decline narrative - which served both as a motivation for individuals to leave employment to maximize enjoyment of their remaining years in good health as well as a motivation for some other individuals to stay employed in order to prevent health problems that might occur from an inactive retirement. Age norms also told some employees they were now “too old” for their job, to change job, for training and/or promotion and that they should leave that “to the younger ones”—what we call a sense of intergenerational disentitlement. The implications of these processes for the extending working lives agenda are discussed.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.3389/fsoc.2021.686645
Uncontrolled keywords: ageism, age stereotypes, age norms, older workers, extending working lives, qualitative interviews
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Sarah Vickerstaff
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2021 13:30 UTC
Last Modified: 29 Jul 2021 10:02 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Vickerstaff, Sarah:
Van der Horst, Mariska:
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