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In press, Current Psychology
Qualitative analysis of transition from work to retirement among Slovak retirees
Amy Vatne Bintliff3
1 Institute of Experimental Psychology, Centre of Social and Psychological Sciences, Slovak Academy of
Sciences, Dúbravská cesta 5819/9, 841 04 Karlova Ves, Bratislava, Slovakia
2 Institute of Applied Psychology, Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, Comenius University, Mlynské
luhy 4 , 821 05 Bratislava, Slovakia
3 University of Wisconsin-Madison, Educational Psychology-Human Development, 1025 Johnson Street,
Madison, Wisconsin 53701 USA
4 Department of Psychology, Trnava University in Trnava, Hornopotočná 23, 91701 Trnava, Slovakia
The corresponding author: Lucia Martinčeková, Email: email@example.com, Tel: 00421 2 5477 5625
Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study was supported by the grant agency VEGA under the contract No. 2/0048/18 „The psychological
aspects of the adaptation to retirement“.
The aim of this study was to qualitatively explore the adjustment to retirement transition from the point of view
of recently retired Slovak individuals. The special focus of the study was on factors which helped or blocked the
process of this adjustment. The data obtained from semi-structured interviews were analyzed by Consensual
Qualitative Research-Modified (Spangler et al. 2012). Forty seniors (M = 63.36; SD = 2.47) participated in the
research. The analysis resulted in the creation of a categorization consisting of four domains: the process of
transition from work to retirement; helpful factors during the transition; risk factors during the transition; and
perceived positive and negative changes in retirement. The categories and representative statements were the
foundation for the creation of three typical cases. The most common case is an individual who looks forward to
retirement because the retiree is tired of the job. After retiring, the retiree experiences relief and satisfaction,
perceives new possibilities, and experiences positive changes. The main helpful factors in adaption to retirement
were identified as engaging in new activities, social relationships, good health, previous retirement planning, as
well as protective attitudes, such as acceptance, gratitude, optimism and perception of the finality of life.
Overall, the most frequently occurring risk factors in adaptation to retirement were bereavement, prolongation of
the retirement age, lack of finances, and a partner’s illness. Positive and negative changes during retirement are
Keywords: retirement, qualitative analysis, seniors, transition
Retirement from work is one of the major life transitions that may cause changes in many different areas of an
individual’s life, such as social network, everyday activities, or economic resources (van Solinge 2013). Hence,
the quality of adjustment to retirement has been the focus of interest for researchers, counselors, and the popular
media (Wang and Shultz 2010). Retirement transition and adjustment is perceived differently based on the major
theories in this field. On the one hand, some authors understand retirement as a role transition (Riley and Riley
Jr. 1994), during which the job role is weakened or completely lost, and roles associated with family and
community are strengthened (Barnes and Parry 2004; Heybroek et al. 2015). Individuals whose job role is
central in their life experience have a more difficult retirement transition than individuals with a very
challenging, unsatisfactory job, or those who have other more fulfilling roles (Osborne 2012; Wang et al. 2011).
On the other hand, the retirement process can be understood through the lens of the continuity theory, which
emphasizes that individuals successfully adapt to retirement if they have developed activities, relationships,
framework of thinking, and adaptive coping skills during the preceding life period and if they continue to use
them during retirement, thereby maintaining continuity (Atchley 1989; Pushkar et al. 2010). The life course
perspective theory claims that individuals’ transition and adaptation to retirement depends on whether they have
flexibly addressed previous life transitions and whether they have specific attributes, such as good health,
financial status, and transition capabilities (Griffin and Hesketh 2008; van Solinge and Henkens 2008; Wang and
Shultz 2010). One of the currently most accepted models for understanding adaptation to retirement is the
resource-based dynamic model for retirement adjustment. According to this model, adjustment to retirement is a
direct consequence of an individual's access to resources during the transition (Wang et al. 2011). These
resources may include physical resources, such as health or physical strength (Jex et al. 2007), cognitive
resources, including work memory (Wang and Chen 2006), financial resources, such as wage and retirement
benefits (Hobfoll 2002), social resources, including social networking and social support (Kim and Feldman
2000), emotional resources, such as emotional stability and mood (Wang et al. 2011) and motivational resources,
like self-efficacy. For people who have adequate resources to meet their retirement needs, transition to
retirement will be less challenging than for people who do not have enough resources (Topa and Valero 2017).
Despite the large number of quantitative studies on the process of retirement, the related factors and
changes, there are only a few studies exploring this transition process qualitatively, from the point of view of the
seniors themselves (Loureiro et al. 2016). The qualitative approach offers unique insights into the problem of
retirement adaptation because it can provide broader and more detailed perspective of retirement accounts,
instead of a narrow and too specific perspective based on pre-defined categories and constructs coming from the
quantitative approach. Moreover, to the best of our knowledge, there has been no qualitative study that addressed
the helping and blocking factors, which influence the process of transition positively or negatively. Information
on such factors is important for understanding the variability of the adaptation process among retirees, and it can
also contribute to the knowledge concerning the success of the adaptation process or the lack thereof. Also,
deeper knowledge of such factors can be a source for intervention focused on the facilitation of retirement
adaptation. For these reasons, our research focuses not only on the adaptation process in general, but specifically
on the helping and blocking factors. Another important characteristic of this study is that it is conducted with
Slovak retirees. Slovakia represents countries of Central and Eastern Europe, with a special cultural
environment, influenced by historical experience with transition from a communist regime to a standard
democracy. This transition has influenced all areas of life, including working and retirement. Studies of the
retirement process in these countries are underrepresented in scientific literature, as most of the studies are from
Western countries. Therefore, we argue that studying the retirement process from the perspective of participants
from Slovakia can contribute to the existing knowledge of this phenomenon.
1.1. The process of the transition from work to retirement
As described in the introduction section, there are different theoretical approaches to retirement.
Retirement transition can be viewed through the lens of the role theory (Riley and Riley Jr. 1994), continuity
theory (Atchley 1989), life course perspective theory (Wang and Shultz 2011) or the resource-based dynamic
model of retirement (Wang et al. 2011). It is important to know the specifics of retirement transition from the
perspective of retired individuals themselves, which can give us the opportunity to compare the experience of
retirees with the main theories in this area. Therefore, the first goal of our study was to understand how Slovak
retirees perceive their transition from work to retirement. Our first research question (Q-1) was the following:
How is the transition from work to retirement perceived by people who have recently retired?
1.2. Positive and negative factors influencing retirement
How an individual adapts from work to retirement depends on various variables. Current quantitative research
evidence recognizes five main categories of factors affecting well-being in retirement: individual attributes; pre-
retirement job-related factors; family-related factors; retirement transition-related factors; and post-retirement
activities (Wang and Hesketh, 2012). Within each category, there are variables with positive or negative impact
on the whole adaptation process. Among individual attributes, perceived good physical health in pre-retirement
but also after retirement, has been shown as an important factor of physical, psychological, and fiscal well-being
in retirement (e.g. Pinquart and Schindler 2007; Silver 2016; Zhan et al. 2009). On the other hand, health
problems have been shown as a negative predictor of retirees‘ adjustment (Shultz and Wang 2007; Wang 2007).
Also, a good financial status, financial goals, and literacy all contribute to adjustment in retirement (Hershey et
al. 2003; Pinquart and Schindler 2007).
Among pre-retirement job-related factors, experiencing stress at work, having a physically or mentally
challenging job, and being dissatisfied with one’s job contribute to experiencing relief and higher well-being
after retirement (van den Bogaard et al. 2016; van Solinge and Henkens 2008). If, on the contrary, individuals
had a satisfying job, where they had identified with their job role, the adaptation to retirement is usually more
difficult (Quick and Moen 1998). Equally important are factors related to retiree's family, such as being in a
quality marriage (Szinovacz and Davey 2004; Wang 2007). Conversely, losing one’s partner during the
retirement transition, (van Solinge and Henkens 2008) as well as having dependent children and grandchildren,
(Kim and Feldman 2000; Marshall et al. 2001) have been shown as factors contributing negatively to adjustment.
The adaptation tends to be easier if an individual was planning to retire (e.g. Hershey and Van Dalen 2007;
Steffens et al. 2016) and retired voluntarily, compared to individuals who were unprepared for retirement
(Reitzes and Mutran 2004; van Solinge and Henkens 2008). Several studies agree that engaging in various post-
retirement activities, whether those are free-time activities, voluntary work, or having a temporary job, is
important for the well-being of a retiree (Dorfman and Kolarik 2005; Griffin and Hesketh 2008; Silver 2016).
Given that the majority of studies on the factors influencing the retirement transition are of a quantitative nature,
it is important to understand the factors seniors themselves perceive as helpful or detrimental to the whole
adaptation process. Therefore, further research questions have been formulated:
Q-2: What are the factors perceived positively in the transition and adaptation to retirement?
Q-3: What are the factors perceived negatively in the transition and adaptation to retirement?
1.3. Perceived positive and negative changes after retirement
After retirement, there are a number of changes individuals have to deal with. They lose their job role and work
team which can be perceived as a relief or which can cause feelings of loneliness. However, retirement offers an
individual an opportunity to create a new role associated with family or community (Damman et al. 2015;
Osborne 2012; Wang et al. 2011). When seniors stop spending a lot of time working in a job, the time spent with
their partner or other family members is usually increased. This can bring positive changes, such as providing
more instrumental support to other family members (e.g. van den Bogaard et al., 2016) but also negative changes
in terms of having more conflicts with friends and family (Johnston 1990; Price and Joo 2005).
A retirement offers a space for an individual to develop new hobbies or deepen existing ones. Some
seniors may start participating in sports, traveling more, engaging in various clubs for seniors, or participating in
cultural activities (Sabbath et al. 2015; Scherger et al. 2011; Staats and Pierfelice 2003). There is also a change
in lifestyle with some seniors starting to be more physically active (Barnett et al. 2014; Lahti et al. 2011) while
others prefer a sedentary lifestyle (Berger et al. 2005; Chung et al. 2009).
Another visible change may happen concerning health status, which can improve during retirement
(Latif 2011) or, on the other hand, some health problems may arise (Dave et al. 2006; Sahlgren 2012). Given the
inconsistency of these findings, this article explores specific changes the recently retired seniors experience and
whether the changes are perceived positively or negatively. Thus, we inquire about the following:
Q-4: What positive changes do the individuals perceive after retirement?
Q-5: What negative changes do the individuals perceive after retirement?
A total of 40 seniors (29 women and 11 men) participated in the study. Participants’ ages ranged from
57 to 69 years (M = 63.36; SD = 2.47) and the length of time in retirement ranged from six months to four years
(M = 2.8). A majority of the sample reported obtaining a high-school degree (n = 30, 75%), nine participants
(22.5%) completed graduate school (eight with master’s degree and one with doctoral degree) and only one
participant (2.5%) reported completing elementary school as their highest degree. There were no college
graduates in the sample because in the Slovakian context, it is typical to continue with the Master’s studies after
finishing a college. Regarding marital status, most of the participants (n = 27, 67.5%) reported being married,
followed by seven (17,5%) being widowed, four (10%) being single, and two (5%) being divorced. 21
participants reported living in a village and 19 participants reported living in a city.
Potential participants were invited to participate in a study about the transition from work to retirement.
They were recruited through organizations and clubs for seniors and researchers’ personal and community
contacts. Participants were also invited to forward the announcement of the study to anyone they thought might
be interested and who met the criteria for participation. The criteria for participation in the study were as
follows: a) having the status of a retired person; b) retirement was limited to a minimum length of half a year and
a maximum length of four years; c) the senior could not have any part-time or full-time job at the time of the
study (only a temporary job was allowed).
Data were collected through individual, in-person, semi-structured interviews. The first and third
authors conducted the interviews. Both authors have previous experiences with qualitative research interviews.
Participants had the opportunity to choose the location of their interviews and most of them chose to meet at
their homes. Prior to face-to-face interviews, participants were informed about all research conditions in the
consent form. Participants provided their written consent to be interviewed and audio recorded.
Consistent with the methodology of consensual qualitative research (Hill 2012; Hill et al. 2005), a core
set of questions that supported our research aims was developed. Participants were asked the following
questions: How was the period of transition to retirement and after retirement for you? How did you manage to
cope with that? Has anything changed? Have you perceived any changes in your life after being retired? If so,
which changes do you perceive as positive? Which changes do you perceive as negative? What has been helpful
to you in your transition from work to retirement? What, on the contrary, has been an obstacle in your transition
from work to retirement? Sometimes participants spoke at length about their experiences so we did not have to
ask all the questions. At other times, participant answers were plain and short so we had to ask follow-up
questions. Interviews lasted approximately 67 minutes, including a final debriefing conversation. Prior to data
analysis, we deleted participants’ names and any other confidential information, and each participant was given
a code number. Then, the first and the third author transcribed the interviews.
2.3 Data analysis
For the purpose of data analysis, we used the consensual qualitative method (CQR), which uses
a bottom-up approach where the results, i.e. domains and categories, emerge from the data without imposing
theoretical constructs on the data (Hill 2012). CQR allows researchers to gain deeper understanding of inner
experiences and attitudes, which is usually not possible with quantitative methods. An essential component of
CQR is having a team of judges who independently code data and discuss each step of the analysis until
consensus is reached (Hill 2012).
To analyze the data, we used a modified version of Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR-M;
Spangler et al. 2012). We chose this approach because CQR-M is recommended for: a) larger sample sizes than
the typical use of 8-15 participants in CQR, and b) relatively simple data (Hill and Williams 2012), which was
our case since some answers of our participants were rather brief, given that they were seniors. The main
difference between CQR and CQR-M in the analysis is that in CQR-M the core ideas are not constructed and
data are simply coded into categories and subcategories.
The first step of the analysis was to create a list of domains. Domains are topics used to group data,
derived from the interview questions and literature (Hill et al. 2005). After reading the transcripts and taking our
research questions into account (Thompson et al. 2012), the first and the third author independently developed
list of domains. Then they discussed the list of domains with the second author until they reached a consensus.
In the second step, due to the number of participants (N = 40) and according to the recommendations of
Hill et al. (2005), we divided the interviews into four parts and started with the analysis of the first part of ten
interviews. Each member of the research team independently analyzed these interviews, coded data into
categories and subcategories. Then the team met together and discussed the preliminary categories with relevant
statements until reaching the consensus about what categories to include and how to label them. This process
was repeated three more times – after independently analyzing ten interviews the research team met, discussed
the statements coded into emerged categories, revised categories and eventually created new categories. Each
time team members discussed discrepancies until a consensus was reached. If a new category was developed,
team members always read through all the data to add relevant statements. In less than 2% of statements, we
double-coded the statements that seemed to fit into more than one domain.
Although it is not necessary to use an auditor in CQR-M, an auditor might be used to provide an
external review of the coding to minimize the effects of groupthink in the primary team (Spangler et al. 2012).
Therefore, in the third step of our analysis, an auditor (the fourth author) read through all the coding and
provided us with feedback. Then the primary team met again and discussed which auditor’s recommendations to
incorporate. When the consensus about the coding was made, the data analysis was completed. At the end, the
team met to find a particularly representative response for each category and subcategory. Some infrequent
categories (n = 1) are not reported in the results section.
As part of the first research question, we created a domain called the process of transition from work to
retirement. This domain reflects the entire process of transition from employment to retirement, capturing the
period before retirement, the transition to retirement itself, and the period after being retired.
In the first domain, 11 categories were identified. 40% of participants talked about the positive
anticipation of retirement - they were looking forward to resting and relaxing in the new life period after
spending a long time at physically or mentally demanding jobs. Having challenging work, along with
experiencing an excessive sense of responsibility, having problematic relationships at the workplace, or on the
other hand, experiencing anticipated grieving for a work team, all contributed to negative feelings in the pre-
retirement period. The transition to retirement was also influenced by the way of retirement. Those who
experienced a forced retirement due to health difficulties or a dismissal from their job described negative
experiences. Those who were planning to retire, whether financially or by planning leisure activities, which
eventually helped them in their adjustment to retirement, described positive experiences.
80% of participants experienced positive feelings after being retired, mainly related to feelings of relief
and freedom to pursue activities at their own leisure. Participants said that they could finally rest with some of
them stating that they even planned to spend the first year of retirement only resting and doing nothing else.
Retirees also described being very satisfied with their current life situation and enjoying days during retirement.
25% of participants specifically mentioned being happy about the opportunity to finally sleep without any
limitations related to their previous job.
Negative feelings after being retired were reported by 40% of participants. These negative feelings were
mainly related to missing coworkers and a job they loved. Two participants experienced loneliness related to the
loss of a loved one they experienced or to being childless. Another two seniors reported feelings of restriction
because they had to take care of their ill husbands, which meant working even harder than when they were
65% of participants perceived retirement as an opportunity for new activities. For these participants, the
time they gained in retirement they devoted to themselves. For example, some became members of retirement
clubs and attended cultural events, which they could now afford. In addition to creating time and space for new
activities, 35% of participants gained an opportunity for deepening relationships and forming new relationships.
Specifically, three participants mentioned deepening relationships with their partner. For example, one
participant stated, “The relationship with my husband also got better, we can go on trips and walks now”. For 11
participants, deepening relationships meant spending time with broader family such as their grandchildren,
children, and siblings.
Within the category called process of adaptation, 18% of participants stressed that they had to get used
to a new life in retirement. An equal number of participants reported that they needed to change their lifestyle
and create a new daily routine to adjust better. While describing the process of transition to retirement, 20%
described their transition process as being smooth, without any problems. On the other hand, 23% of seniors
reported an experience of financial deterioration after being retired. 13% of participants acknowledged sleeping
problems during the transition period, describing times when they could not fall sleep or when they woke up at
the usual time as they used to when they were employed. All categories and representative items related to Q-1
are reported in Table 1.
Table 1. The process of transition from work to retirement
The process of transition from work to retirement
I was looking forward to retiring, I was excited and
I already needed it very much.
I had a fairly hard job.
Fatigue from work
I felt tired, mentally tired.
Excessive sense of
I had the type of work where I had to be responsible to
my supervisors, but also to other coworkers, so
I accepted this change very positively.
relationships at the
I had a really hard time at my job. I was bullied and
scrutinized, for opening my mouth more than I was
allowed to. So, I was looking forward to retiring…it was
Health problems (3/8%)
I did not feel the best in terms of my physical health,
which was also reflected in my mental health.
Anticipated grieving for
a work team (2/5%)
I was afraid that I would miss my colleagues during the
retirement. That was the only thing I was afraid of.
I got fired, went to the office of labor, they granted me
premature retirement, so I just had to retire.
It was good because I had been preparing for retirement
for about a year and a half.
Feeling of readiness for
I was mentally prepared for terminating my job.
I took it as a wonderful gift from the heavens that I
could do whatever I want to.
Need for rest (14/35%)
I thought for one year I am just going to rest...
I am really satisfied this way, I have a better and more
Sleep without limitation
Finally, I can sleep as much as I want to, I used to get
up at 3:30 am...
Missing job and
After I stopped working, when I went around the
kindergarten, my heart ached and I was very sad. I really
loved my job, I cannot say how much.
Sometimes I also feel lonely, when I am alone and
childless at home...
At first, there was enough time for everything, which
was great, but then there was too much time.
Feeling of restriction
I cannot say that I am retired because I still work, work
and work, and I work even harder than when I had a job.
I have more time for myself... I can devote myself to my
activities, tourism, or cultural events.
We have a grandson, that's our joy, I like to spend time
And the relationship with my husband also got better,
we can go on trips and walks now…
Getting used to (7/18%)
I have become more used to it, one has to change a lot
Change in a lifestyle,
creation of a daily
routine and pace
That was a time when I planned my daily regime
I was very disappointed with the amount of my pension.
It went smoothly and naturally.
It was such a change for me, I still cannot get a good
Note. Participant responses translated by team members from Slovak into English.
The second domain, helpful factors during the transition from work to retirement, summarizes factors
that have helped seniors to adjust better to retirement. We identified seven categories within this domain.
75% of participants reported that various activities helped them to adjust to retirement, many times
those were leisure activities such as sports, traveling, cultural activities, reading books, and solving crossword
puzzles. Other participants reported that work around the house and garden was relaxing and helpful in their
adjustment, and six participants had a temporary job which gave them purpose and opportunity to socialize. A
second dominant category of helpful factors was social relationships. Nearly half of the participants described
that caring for others, especially for children and grandchildren, as well as spending time with family and friends
gave them meaning and helped them to adjust more smoothly to a new life period. Six participants also
considered receiving social support, especially from family and a partner, as helpful.
There was also evidence of protective attitudes in successful adaptation to retirement. The most
common protective attitude was acceptance of a new life situation. 10% of participants described gratitude as a
key attitude in their adjustment including gratitude for being healthy to be able to enjoy retirement and spend
time with family. The same number of participants also described their optimism as a helpful factor. Other
participants accepted this new life period with humility and four participants realized the finality and fragility of
life, which helped them to have a new perspective.
18% of participants mentioned that one of the important factors of their successful adaptation to
retirement was having good health. The same number of participants were planning and preparing to retire,
mostly by planning activities. For example, one participant mentioned that he created a workroom with materials
and tools so that he would have something to do during retirement. Since it provided them with more
opportunities for spending free time, five participants mentioned living in the village as being helpful. Three
participants also explained that being financially secure is a protective factor because adaptation to retirement
would certainly be more difficult if they had more financial problems.
Table 2. Helpful factors during the transition from work to retirement
Helpful factors during the transition from work to retirement
The activities which I do... I always go somewhere,
for some trips, which probably filled my time and it
also helped me...
Work in the home, in
the garden (12/30%)
I have a garden and caring about it helps me, that
way I forget about my job. I can still find something
to do at our house.
Temping job (6/15%)
Fortunately, I have this temping job, four hours
per day for four months. I am so excited to have such
Caring for others
Because it is very important that you have someone
to care for.
I coped very well. Friends and children visit us very
My husband is such an optimist and that really
helped me, especially in times when I felt bad.
Well, I actually adapted to that life reality that it had
to come once.
I have a lot of free time and I am grateful for that.
Since I am such an optimistic person I always
discovered new and new things.
Perceiving the finality
of life (4/10%)
I have seen that some of my friends did not even get
to be retired or got sick, and it all helped me to see
We have the main things for living, that is the most
I still have a fairly good health, and that is the most
I was preparing for the retirement. I created
a workroom at home, I was preparing material and
tools to have something to do during retirement.
Living in a village
I live in the village, so there is always something to
do, work around the house or so.
Certainly, it also depends on being financially secure.
If I had a minimum pension, it would certainly be
Note. Participant responses translated by team members from Slovak into English.
Participants also described risk factors in their adaptation to retirement. The most commonly described
risk factor (10%) was bereavement related to feelings of grief and isolation due to loss of a partner, sibling, or
a friend. Also, prolongation of the retirement age made the transition more difficult, with some participants
planning to and looking forward to retire earlier, and therefore feeling disappointed and sad for needing to wait
more years to retire. Regarding work life, there were other risk factors, such as a dismissal from job, missing
coworkers and lack of finances after being retired. Eight percent of participants described that they had to take
care of their seriously ill partner devoting all of their time and energy into this care, which caused many negative
changes in their life and made the adaptation more difficult.
Table 3. Risk factors during the transition from work to retirement
Risk factors during the transition from work
It was really bad for me because my husband died right before my
retirement. So, it was bad, really bad.
Prolongation of the
And it was very hard for me that the retirement age got prolonged,
because at first I thought I would retire in 55...
Lack of finances
It was just difficult because we did not have enough money.
I switched from working at my job to taking care of my ill husband. So,
these 8 hours I wasn’t somewhere at the job but I had to fully take care of
my husband which was a work, too.
Dismissal from job
I got fired and so I went to the office of labor…
I miss my colleagues, I felt a bit cut from the society, from the team,
which was good at my job. I had to deal with this.
Poor health (2/5%)
Because I had some health problems...
Note. Participant responses translated by team members from Slovak into English.
Domain perceived positive changes in retirement is composed of five categories. The most frequent
category, described by 78% of participants, is time and space gained. With transition to retirement, participants
gained time for new activities, such as going into theatres and reading. Fourteen participants invested their time
into their family and relationships. They spent time and took care for their partner, children or grandchildren. For
65% of participants, retirement was associated with stress relief as they valued the freedom to decide for
themselves and to do whatever they wanted to do, not what they had to do in their jobs. 8% of participants
appreciated that they could choose which friends they would spend time with in retirement, instead of having to
spend time with their colleagues while they were employed. Two participants also appreciated having financial
security without the need to work.
Domain perceived negative changes in retirement includes nine categories. The most frequent category
described by 55% of participants was problems with health and physical fitness. 33% of seniors also perceived
lack of finances even after working for many years. Another frequent negative change was feelings of loneliness
and lack of social contacts, compared to times when one had a job. Surprisingly, one quarter of participants
reported no negative changes after being retired and some of them felt even more satisfied compared to when
they were employed. At the beginning of the retirement, 20% of seniors felt satisfied with how much time they
gained but after a while they realized there was too much free time and they felt bored and lacked some life
framework. Some participants reported that they missed their job which was meaningful to them and which they
liked. Four participants described that spending every day with their partner led to having more conflicts with
them. The same number of participants described some limitations associated with retirement status, especially
related to having more difficulty accessing goods and services than when they commuted to work on a daily
Table 4. Perceived positive and negative changes in retirement
Perceived positive changes in retirement
Time and space
...more time for reading, going into theatres…I take more
cultural and recreational trips.
I can enjoy my family which I could not do for years when
I had been working...
Time in general
I have more free time.
I took it as a wonderful gift from the heavens that I can do
whatever I want... So, freedom is great.
I do not have to feel stressed.
of attitude in
Having a choice
Now I can choose with whom I am going to meet or spend
the need to work
I get money every month, whether it is summer or winter, I
do not have to worry whether I get a salary or whether they
fire me. I get stable money every month.
Perceived negative changes in retirement
The only problems I have had are the ones related to my
Lack of finances
Money, one cannot buy anything one wants, the pension is
I just miss people, I really enjoyed having fun with them,
talking to them...
I feel satisfied. I do not perceive anything negative about my
retirement so far.
Lack of life
After a while one realizes there is too much free time...
I have been missing my job because I liked it.
with a partner
I would say our marriage, we cannot get used to each other,
we even get on each other’s nerves.
When I had a job, it was easier to buy anything on my way
from work, I had easier access to things...
It hurt the way people looked at me being a senior.
Note. Participant responses translated by team members from Slovak into English.
Based on the data analysis, we have identified three typical cases describing the ways our participants
went through this specific transition period. The first typical case is an individual who expects to retire and looks
forward to it because the retiree is tired of the job or the work was mentally or physically challenging for an
elderly man or a woman. When work involved a great deal of responsibilities, not only for the retiree, but also
for subordinates, individuals reported experiencing stress at work. After retiring, some retirees experience relief
and satisfaction because it leads to relaxation. At this stage, the retiree perceives new possibilities for spending
free time, especially with family. These individuals are delighted to be able to engage in activities they have
neglected to date or they start to engage in new activities. These individuals also experience positive changes and
often state that there are no negatives related to retirement. Engaging in new activities, nurturing social
relationships, employing protective attitudes, working around the house or having a temporary job, and previous
retirement planning, all aid retirees in their adaptation to retirement.
The second case is an individual who leaves an enjoyable job. This job was meaningful to the
participant and they had good relationships with colleagues. In this case, the adjustment becomes more
problematic. The retiree misses either the job itself or the team. By leaving work, an individual may experience
loneliness and lack of social contacts, especially if they lack sufficient social background and support in existing
family relationships. The activities that the retiree is involved in during retirement cannot replace what was done
at work. Also, disappointment arises if the amount of pension does not correspond to retiree expectations. In
addition, a retiree may encounter negatives such as problems with health and physical condition, as well as lack
of life framework and boredom resulting from having too much free time.
The last case is an individual, who while still working, was already planning for and looking forward to
retirement. Unfortunately, due to an unexpected, negative event, the transition did not occur smoothly and in line
with the retiree’s expectations. In some cases, an individual loses a person close to them, often a partner. The
grief experienced can be multiplied by the loneliness related to retirement. Other cases are related to a serious
illness of a partner, when an individual shifts from years spent working to a period of demanding care for
another person. Also, a dismissal from work or delay in the retirement age can be factors resulting in negative
changes after retirement.
The process of transition from work to retirement
In the pre-retirement period, an employee might have positive expectations for retirement due to dissatisfaction
with the current job. Participants looked forward to retiring, especially when they had a challenging job, either
physically (fatigue from work) or mentally (excessive sense of responsibility or problematic relationships at the
workplace). This is in line with previous studies (Dal Bianco, Trevisan, & Weber, 2015; Siegrist et al. 2007)
showing that poor quality of work is associated with the desire to retire as soon as possible. Also, it seems that
Czechs, who have a mentality similar to Slovaks, indicate a preference for early retirement regardless of the
expected lower pension compared to their previous income, and regardless of the factors such as gender, age or
the level of education (Vidovićová, Manea, & Rabušic, 2008). On the other hand, when participants experienced
an involuntary retirement, due to dismissal from work or health problems, their transition to retirement was more
difficult. Similarly, Heybroek et al. (2015) and Gallo et al. (2006) found that involuntary loss of employment is
associated with worse coping with the retirement transition and more depressive symptoms. Results of this study
support these findings, as our participants reported risk factors in their transition to retirement such as
unemployment and health issues.
Some employees prepared and planned for retirement. In one case, the planning was financial (Hershey & Van
Dalen, 2007), but mostly it was psychological and social regarding leisure time or looking for information on
how to cope better with retirement. Individuals who had been preparing for retirement did not describe any
difficulties in transition to retirement, which is consistent with the findings of previous studies (Adams and Rau
2011; Muratore and Earl 2015; Reitzes and Mutran 2004). The positive effect of planning can also be explained
by the resource-based dynamic model (Wang et al. 2011), when retirees who are more involved in retirement
planning acquire greater resources, which consequently contribute to a better adaptation and higher well-being
during retirement (Yeung and Zhou 2017). However, our results suggest that only a minority of our respondents
were involved in financial preparation for retirement before transition. This is a very low rate in comparison with
Western countries (e.g. Alessie, Van Rooij, & Lusard 2011) and one of the most important differences between
the Slovak and Western inhabitants. We think the nature of the pension system can play a role in this difference,
as pension systems in most post-socialistic countries are organized as pay-as-you-go system with an important
role of the government which decides on the pension rate (Vidovićova, 2014). Although this system is not
sustainable due to demographic changes and it is being reformed, most of the people still have paternalistic
concept of government, which should take care of retirees. Due to this situation, the Slovaks can feel less
responsible for the financial situation during the retirement compared to people from the Western countries.
Although some of our participants experienced negative feelings in the pre-retirement period due to
problems related to work and health, for the majority of participants the period after being retired was positive.
Most of our participants have experienced the need for rest and a sense of relief from excessive responsibility
and duties, or conflicts at work which is supported by other studies (Latif 2011; Osborne 2012). The newly
created leisure time was spent doing housework, engaging in new activities, and trying to recover mental and
physical resources. Participants also felt joy and began to enjoy life more fully after being retired. The positive
emotions after retirement could be explained by the honeymoon period, based on the stage theory of retirement
(Atchley 1989), which is typically followed by a period of frustration, when an individual begins to understand
that retirement does not bring only advantages. Although this theory did not receive much empirical support (van
Solinge 2013), it could be applied to some of our participants who reported enjoying retirement during the early
stages, but later experienced lack of life framework and boredom when the initial euphoria had disappeared.
Therefore, they actively engaged in creating new lifestyle with a new daily routine.
Helpful and risk factors during the transition from work to retirement
The second sub-goal was to examine the variables that affect the transition to retirement and subsequent
adaptation positively and negatively.
Engaging in various activities was found as the most helpful factor during transition to retirement.
Among helpful activities, retirees mentioned leisure activities, such as reading books, as well as work around the
house and in the garden, and having a temporary job. Previous studies similarly indicate the importance of
leisure activities (Silver 2016; Wang and Shultz 2010) and bridge employment (Wang 2007; Zhan et al. 2009)
for well-being of a retiree. One leisure activity specifically mentioned by our participants who lived in a village
was work around the house or garden. This was a way for our participants to stay active and to not ruminate
about their previous work or other-related problems. They described this work as physically challenging and
mentally relaxing at the same time. We are not aware of many studies which would mention gardening as a
specific leisure activity for retirees and thus, we believe, gardening might be an activity more specific for the
Slovakian retirees than for retirees from the Western countries. Overall, having these post-retirement activities is
in line with the continuity theory (Atchley 1989) which asserts that being active during retirement serves to
preserve continuity, thus making the transition easier (Feldman and Beehr 2011).
Social relations is an important helpful factor in adaptation to retirement. Many participants found
caring for others, and especially for grandchildren, as helpful in their adaptation. However, this result is
inconsistent with previous studies from the Western countries (Kim and Feldman 2000; Marshall et al. 2001;
Szinovacz and Davey 2004), showing that obligations and financial costs associated with care for grandchildren
are related to worse well-being. Results from this study indicate that caring for grandchildren may be an
important source of meaningfulness and generativity during retirement in Slovakian participants, but it probably
depends on the amount and voluntariness of care. Moreover, social support, especially from a partner, and
maintaining social relationships were found to be helpful in the adaptation of a retiree, which may be explained
by the fact that social support reduces loneliness of retirees (Chen aand Feeley 2014).
As with any other stressful situation, choosing an attitude can be helpful in the transition to retirement.
(Frankl 2006). Our participants coped better with this transition if they could accept the new situation and stay
humble. Also, if they realized that they had many things to be grateful for because many people do not reach
retirement age, or are sick or abandoned at this stage of life, they coped well. In fact, gratitude has been shown to
be an adaptation mechanism that promotes well-being (e.g. Emmons and McCullough 2003; Chopik et al. 2017)
and can reduce the negative effects of stress on health in late life (Krause 2006). Therefore, seniors can benefit
from focusing on what they have instead of complaining about what they lack. Feelings of optimism that
accompany people throughout their lives helps seniors in adaptation to retirement as well. The positive effect of
optimism on retirement adaptation can be explained by the resource-based dynamic perspective. Optimism can
help an individual to assess the needed resources during the transition to retirement, therefore, the adjustment
quality can be increased (Topa and Pra 2017; Topa and Valero 2017). Participants also described perceiving the
finality of life and being aware that death can come at any time as helpful reminders to spend their time during
retirement more meaningfully. This is consistent with theories of Frankl (2006) and Yalom (2008), who argue
that death awareness adds to our responsibility to make the most of the time we have got. Overall, there is not
sufficient research about positive psychological traits and attitudes and their effect on well-being in retirees. We
are aware of only one published study reporting that a combination of positive psychological factors (self-
efficacy, grit, hope, optimism) was a significant predictor of depression in retirees (Allenden et al. 2016). It is,
however, difficult to say whether these results are specific for Slovakia compared to Western cultures and more
research is needed to confirm these findings. Therefore, future studies may be aimed at measuring positive
psychological traits and attitudes, such as gratitude and optimism, and their relation to coping with retirement
and unexpected negative events which may occur during transition.
Having good health and being financially secure have been described as helpful factors in transition to
retirement by our participants, which lends support to previous findings in literature (Pinquart and Schindler
2007; Reitzes and Mutran 2004; Silver 2016). Financial security in retirement can be a result of receiving a
monthly pension, but can also be a result of financial planning (e.g. Hershey and Van Dalen 2007). A surprising
finding is that financial planning was reported by only one of our participants. This rather low financial planning
seems to be specific for Slovakian participants compared to those from Western cultures and may be related to
the lack of educational and intervention programs promoting financial preparedness in the Slovakian context. In
fact, Bačová and Kostovičová (2018) found in a sample of young employed Slovakian adults that their attitudes
towards financial preparation for retirement and towards retirement savings were predicted by financial self-
confidence and knowledge of the pension system. Therefore, educational and intervention programs should be
aimed at increasing financial preparation for retirement in Slovakia, which can eventually lead to higher
financial security in retirement. Interventions can also be aimed at planning how individuals can stay physically
or socially active (Steffens et al., 2016), which was described as an important helpful factor by our participants.
Sometimes the transition from work to retirement does not occur smoothly and can be complicated by
various factors and unexpected situations. Bereavement, especially the death of a spouse is one of these
situations. According to the scale of stressful life events (Holmes and Rahe 1967), the death of a spouse is
regarded as the most stressful experience, which has also been previously shown as a stressful factor in retirees’
adjustment (e.g. van Solinge and Henkens 2008). Our participants described how they looked forward to retiring
and spending time with their partner, but then they had to adjust to a completely new life situation. This was also
the case when seniors had to take care for an ill partner, which not only takes up all their time and energy, but
also limits them in their daily activities and life plans. In fact, spousal caregiving has been associated with
negative psychological outcomes in other studies as well (Capistrant et al. 2014). The negative effect of
bereavement or caregiving on adaptation to retirement can be explained by the life course perspective theory
(van Solinge and Henkens 2005), which says that transition to retirement is influenced by the context in which
the transition is made. Since these negative events cannot be predicted or controlled, we believe that an
individual may cope better with them by taking a protective attitude, such as acceptance or gratitude.
Another risk factor which was mentioned by our participants, and especially by women, is prolongation
of the retirement age. This risk factor seems to be specific for the Slovakian context compared to that of Western
cultures. Current average retirement age in Slovakia is 62 years which is comparable to the average retirement
age in the United States. What, however, may be a challenging aspect for Slovakian retirees is their planning to
retire earlier, which was changed by the pension reform implemented in 2004. Until 2004, retirement age for
Slovakian women was 52-57 years depending on the number of children a woman had. This retirement age is
being gradually increasing to 62 years. Many of the women in our sample planned to retire earlier and this
unexpected change in the social politics may have been perceived very negatively, especially in the light of
having a physically challenging job.
A few individuals experienced unemployment before retirement. The negative effect of unemployment
on adaptation can be explained by the fact that retirement due to unemployment is regarded as unexpected and
involuntary, which, according to previous studies (Dorn and Sousa-Poza 2010; Heybroek et al. 2015), has a
negative impact on the process of adaptation, regardless of the culture. Unemployment can also be associated
with lack of finances, which in itself is also perceived as a risk factor in adaptation. Having particularly good
relationships at work may cause retirees to miss their coworkers, which also complicates the whole process.
Disrupting these contacts after retiring or not creating a sufficient social network outside of work are factors in
the well-being of a retiree as well (Damman et al. 2015; Segel-Karpas et al. 2018).
In general, there were fewer risk factors reported during the transition from work to retirement compared to the
number of protective factors. Also, most of the reported negative factors are the ones that an individual cannot
control. Therefore, it may be suggested for a senior to focus more on protective attitudes, which can mitigate the
effects of negative situations.
Perceived positive and negative changes in retirement
The most frequently mentioned positive change in retirement was time and space gained, which was mainly used
for participating in new activities, such as sports, reading, or cultural events, as well as traveling more, which
was also commonly reported in previous studies (Sabbath et al. 2015; Scherger et al. 2011; Staats and Pierfelice
2003). Traveling more during retirement may be the outcome of having fewer family and work responsibilities
(Nimrod 2008), but it may also be connected to having free train tickets, which is an opportunity available for
seniors in our country. Overall, we assume that a positive evaluation of this change - time and space gained -
may stem from the fact that leisure activities contribute to overall life satisfaction and promote social
engagement of seniors (Huxhold et al. 2014; Wetzel and Huxhold 2016).
Over one third of our participants used newly gained time to spend it with their family and to build
relationships. One can build new relationships outside of the family by participating in various organizations
(Van Den Bogaards et al. 2014), which was the case of our participants, who, for example, attended the
university of the “third age” which is an educational program organized by local universities for seniors. As far
as the family is concerned, it is not just about helping children with their grandchildren (Hayslip and Kaminski,
2005; Kaptijn et al. 2010), but also about quality time spent doing various activities, whether with their
grandchildren (Burn et al. 2016), children or with a partner.
Many of our participants described freedom and stress relief related to retirement as an important
positive change. Participants enjoyed the freedom of having the opportunity to make their own decisions and do
whatever they wanted without the need to adjust to job requirements, which added to the reduction of stress as
well. Reducing stress experienced by employees can also lead to the improvement in seniors’ health status
When asked about possible negative changes, one fourth of the participants reported no negative
changes perceived during retirement. This can be explained by the resource-based dynamic model (Wang et al.
2011). We may assume that if a senior has sufficient resources and their needs are met, they will be well adjusted
to retirement (Topa and Valero, 2017); however, the most frequently described negative change in our
participants is problems with health and physical fitness, which has been reported in some previous studies (e.g.
Dave et al. 2006; Sahlgren 2012). There are different reasons for these problems. One of the objective reasons
mentioned by our participants is increased age. Another reason can be preferring a sedentary lifestyle and a lack
of physical activity (Owen et al. 2010; Rezende et al. 2014). It may, therefore, be recommended that while still
employed, individuals should undertake activities beneficial to their health, which may help them maintain their
health status even after retirement (Jex et al. 2007).
Loneliness and lack of social contacts was another negative factor related to transition to retirement.
One of the reasons may be the loss of work environment which usually offers opportunities for social interaction
and social engagement to employees (Segel-Karpas et al. 2018). Some retirees mentioned that when they first
retired, they tended to meet frequently with their ex-coworkers, but after some time they met less and less often.
Other individuals experienced loneliness as a result of the loss of their spouse. This finding is supported by other
studies, which show that loneliness is a prevalent problem in widowed seniors (Routasalo and Pitkala 2003;
Thomopoulou et al. 2010). Thus, contact with adult children along with caring for grandchildren, mentioned by
our participants, can be a buffer against loneliness.
Retirement can also be associated with having more conflicts with a partner, which can be explained by
spending more free time with a partner (Johnston 1990; Price and Joo 2005). On the other hand, retirees stated
that they are glad they have a conflict with their partner from time to time because that is a much better
alternative to being alone.
Overall, when trying to compare our results with those of Western cultures, we are not aware of any
specific differences in the perceived positive and negative changes between Slovakian participants and those
from the Western countries, which may indicate that these changes experienced due to retirement may not be
It is important to interpret the results of our study with respect to several limitations. The first limitation relates
to the use of qualitative methodology, which does not allow us to generalize our results or even to assume the
causal interpretations of the results. The second limitation concerns participants recalling their experiences
retrospectively, and therefore their memories may not be completely accurate. The third limitation is related to
the characteristics of our participants. Specifically, participants’ length of time in retirement ranged from half a
year to four years, and therefore their experiences may have been different. Also, the majority of our sample’s
education ended with a high-school degree. Our results may have been different if we used participants with
university degrees. Therefore, future studies might consider using a sample of seniors with university degrees,
whose adaptation to retirement might be different. Despite these limitations, we believe that through qualitative
research we have been able to take a deeper and more complex view of the experiences of seniors with
retirement transition, and especially with respect to their perceived positive and negative factors during their
transition from work to retirement.
Our study points to the importance of creating a new lifestyle with a new daily routine in order to avoid or
mitigate the lack of life framework of a retiree. Seniors might benefit from retirement planning, especially in
terms of planning their free time in retirement. Maintaining an active lifestyle, such as engaging in various free
time activities, work around the house or having a temporary job, may serve to preserve the continuity of a
retiree (Atchley, 1989) and thus the transition to retirement may be easier (Feldman and Beehr 2011). Moreover,
since the most commonly described negative change by our participants was problems with health and physical
fitness, it may be recommended that while still employed, individuals might benefit from engaging in behavior
beneficial to their health, which may be helpful for maintaining their health status even after retirement (Jex et
al. 2007). Interventions may be aimed at increasing health-promoting behavior, as well as at increasing
psychological and social planning for retirement. Educational and intervention programs regarding financial
planning may be especially important for retirees in Slovakia since financial planning was unrepresented in our
Our results seem to be mostly in line with the resource-based dynamic model of retirement (Wang et al.
2011), suggesting that individuals who have greater resources in their transition to retirement, adjust better to
retirement. The experience of our participants emphasizes the importance of having social resources in the
following ways: social networking and caring for children and grandchildren; having motivational resources in
terms or self-efficacy to lead an active lifestyle and protective attitudes to cope with negative situations; physical
resources in terms of good health and physical fitness; and adequate financial resources.
The transition to retirement may be complicated by unexpected negative situations, which cannot be
predicted or controlled, such as losing a loved one or an illness of a partner. In such situations, it is
recommended for an individual to focus more on taking a protective attitude, such as accepting the current
situation with humility and gratitude. We hope that our findings can be an asset to the understanding of the
transition to retirement, with respect to helpful and risk factors during this transition.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Statement of human rights
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards
of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later
amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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