The Extraordinary Happiness of Retirees

An overwhelming majority (93 percent) of retirees recently surveyed say their life is as good or better than before retirement. That’s one result reported in a new study from Merrill Lynch titled “Leisure in Retirement: Beyond the Bucket List.”

The survey found most retirees are happy to be free from the daily grind, the pressure of juggling family and work, alarm clocks, deadlines and never-ending emails. Nine out of ten (92 percent) say retirement gives them the freedom and flexibility to do whatever they want, and on their own terms.

In the coming years, millions of workaholic boomers will transition from being “time constrained” to “time affluent.” The U.S. is the “no-vacation nation,” with the average number of vacation days employees take per year (11) ranking far below the averages of other developed nations: 30 for Brazil, France and Germany; 25 for the U.K., Sweden and Italy; 22 for Norway; and 15 for Canada.

Furthermore, almost half (41 percent) of Americans don’t even use all their vacation, and well over three-fourths (83 percent) of working-age Americans say they do some type of work-related activity while on vacation. No wonder U.S. retirees are so happy with their new-found freedom.

Life gets better with age

The Merrill Lynch report contains several measures of life satisfaction that improve with age:

  • How much fun retirees are having: On a 1 to 10 scale, people age 65 to 74 report the highest average at 7.3, comparing to 6 for those 35 to 44 and 45 to 54; and 6.4 for those 25 to 34 and 55 to 64.
  • How often retirees feel happy, relaxed and content: The response patterns are similar.
  • How often retirees feel anxious: The reported frequency is only 12 percent for people age 65 to 74, which is well below the frequencies reported by younger age groups: 37 percent for 25 to 34; 31 percent for 35 to 44; 25 percent for 45 to 54; and 19 percent for 55 to 64.

All in all, the Merrill Lynch study characterizes ages 61 to 75 as the retirement “freedom zone,” when people enjoy the greatest balance of health, free time, fun and emotional well-being.

A quote from a focus group participant nicely sums up the changes in values as people age: “When I was younger, I was focused on having a nice house and a great car. Now that I’m older, I realize it’s about the experiences in life — not the things — that matter most.” The Merrill Lynch report contains various statistics that support the prevalence of these values.

The new social security: Relations

Many workers experience their social connections through work, and retirement can disrupt those ties and friendships. Needing social connection, more people (61 percent) report that it’s more important who they spend their leisure time with, compared to only 39 percent who report that the leisure activity itself is most important.

The Merrill Lynch study documents research findings that correlate a robust social life with good health, longevity, lower risk of heart disease and better cognitive health in later life. These are all good reasons older workers should place just as much importance in planning for their social connections in retirement as they might when planning for their financial security.

Retirees are falling short in planning

Planning for leisure time is fairly uncommon: About half of all retirees make some plans for leisure in the coming year, and far fewer (less than one-fourth) plan leisure activities for the next five years. Two-thirds of those with a spouse or partner haven’t discussed or agreed on how much leisure time to spend together in retirement, or how much money to spend on leisure activities. More than half (58 percent) report that they don’t know how much money they’ll need to pay for the leisure activities they’d like to pursue.

Retirees can improve the odds of a happy and fulfilling retirement by creating a game plan for their leisure time, deciding what they want to do, the experiences they want, who they want to spend time with and how much money it will cost. That’s the best way for retirees to maintain their happiness and satisfaction throughout the rest of their lives.

Even with these challenges, the Merrill Lynch survey belies the image of older people as unhappy, depressed and frustrated, watching TV all day. It appears that most are quite satisfied with their lives and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Source: CBS MoneyWatch

Latest Developments

We keep our members and partners in touch with the most recent updates and opinions in the worldwide dialogue on population longevity and related issues.

Global Coalition on Aging Workshop Calls on G7 Countries to Fund Pull Incentives to Spur Antibiotic Innovation

The Global Coalition on Aging, in partnership with JPMA, today announced the release of its workshop report on the AMR crisis facing G7 countries and the world, “The Value of Pull Incentives in Japan to Encourage Investment in Antibiotic Innovation to Solve the AMR Crisis.” If strong action is not taken to address AMR, we will lose the antibiotics we need to cure infections, which is likely to outpace cancer as a major cause of death, killing an estimated 10 million by 2050.

Our National Conversation on Aging

Now that President Biden officially declared his run for a second term, what are we to make of the countless warnings about his age? Clearly, voters have already considered age a major factor – Google Search results for ‘Biden age’ hit an all-time-high just before the 2020 election – and speculation has only heightened four years on. Unfortunately, these concerns are misguided and even dangerous because they conflate age with poor health and confuse ideas about work and retirement.

World Immunization Week: Best-Kept Secret for 21st-Century Healthy Aging

The tremendous success of childhood immunisation campaigns across the 20thcentury is one of the greatest triumphs of public health. Along with advances in sanitation and antibiotics, childhood immunisation has resulted in the miracle of modern longevity: the once extravagant prospect of growing old has become the norm. Now, in our 21st century, isn’t it our great challenge to build on this achievement by realising a healthy longevity?

South China Morning Post Letter to the Editor

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the defining global problems of our time. Drug-resistant bacterial infections killed an estimated 1.27 million people in 2019. By 2050, 10 million lives annually could be lost to antimicrobial resistance, and annual global gross domestic product could fall by between 1.1 per cent and 3.8 per cent. Fortunately, Chinese policymakers, physicians and patients have shown what is possible when they focus collective efforts on antimicrobial resistance.

Medicine Price Setting Might Appeal to Voters but Will Cost Patients

As policymakers search for potential cuts to the national budget, they risk jeopardizing the country’s most cost-effective use of healthcare dollars: biomedical innovation regarding vaccines , prescription drugs, and emerging therapies, including antibodies. As the nation rapidly ages, protecting this pipeline of medicine will not only improve health outcomes but will do so at a lower cost by reducing more expensive hospital and primary care.

Global Coalition on Aging Hosts Cross-Sector Roundtable to Tackle Heart Valve Disease in Aging Societies

The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) and the Global Heart Hub have released a global position paper “Heart Valve Disease: Harnessing Innovation to Save Lives, Mitigate Costs, and Advance the Healthy Aging Agenda.” The report builds upon on a December 2022 GCOA-GHH roundtable of cross-sector experts and examines how behavior and policy change can best address heart valve disease in our 21st century.

New York City Twins with Ireland to Develop Age Friendly Communities

The twinning commits both sides to share knowledge on age friendly programs and builds on the 2011 Dublin Declaration of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. The agreement was signed by the Cathaoirleach (Mayor) Nick Killian of Meath County Council which hosts the Irish Age Friendly Programme and Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, Commissioner for Aging.

Just Getting Started at 75

In the latest charge against the promise of healthy aging, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, oncologist and bioethicist, doubled down on his infamous 2014 essay stating that 75 is the ideal age to die. Now 65, he maintains that after age 75, he will no longer receive medical screenings and interventions like colonoscopies, cancer treatment, flu shots, and heart valve replacement.