Trying to be someone you can never be again: retirement as a signifier of old age

2016 Ageing & Society  
Work occupies a central place in identity formation. Consequently, retirement places retirees in a new reality that compels them to redefine themselves and adopt a new identity. The present article examines how retirees shape their identity in the absence of work. An interpretive analysis of in-depth interviews conducted with retirees in Israel shows that although retirement and old age are not necessarily equivalent or interconnected, the retirees themselves draw parallels between them, and at
more » ... etween them, and at the same time also deny this linkage, preferring to draw a distinction between them. The findings reinforce the argument presented in the literature, namely that in contemporary society it is difficult to identify with old age. They also propose a new perspective that reveals the negotiation retirees conduct with old age, age and body, and how identity is shaped by way of denial. In this negotiation the retirees construct their identity around two central, parallel axes: retirement and old age. It further emerges that it is precisely the efforts to mask and repress old age, which are usually made in the body domain, that attest to the existence and presence of old age in their identity. Denial of old age creates a dynamic, hybrid identity that enables retirees to simultaneously accept and reject old age.
doi:10.1017/s0144686x16000155 fatcat:6iznog4zqncyrfeiug6yui23hy