Judging by the impressive number of publications on this topic, the “silver economy” is about to become an evergreen as unavoidable as a “pension system reform” by the government. But these economical and political prisms obscure the main facets of the pension topic. Because, it should be reminded, retirement remains a pensioner problem, first and foremost. How do individuals experience their transition from work to retirement? Why do some people fear it, while other people are impatiently waiting for it? What do they actually do with their retirement? Why do some people continue to work while other choose leisure? We tried to address those interrogations in our report.
Focusing on the identity dimension of retirement allows us to adopt the retirees' intimate and personal view of their situation. In fact, retirement can be experienced as an identity crisis: everything that has been built by and for work becomes obsolete as soon as it is over. In other words, work is so structuring that its absence raises questions, and confuses. For individuals, it is thus essential to regain control of an entirely new situation. To solve this crisis, individuals have different options: they either try to keep their professional identity while adapting it to new circumstances; or they try to recover an identity formed outside the professional world. The life course of individuals and social norms greatly influences the type of response provided, and thus the way of living retirement.
We met 15 retirees and analysed their life trajectories, career paths, transition from work to retirement and their daily life since that. By paying special attention to biographical illusions: as individuals tend to render paths coherent, although they are actually made up of accidents and coincidences, we vigilantly monitored each life stage described.