Many older adults aim to retire by a certain age not only for financial reasons, but for their own emotional and mental well-being.
The research, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, explores the psychological stages individuals go through as they adjust to retirement. It found that no matter how old people are when they retire, they tend to feel a stable satisfaction with life around age 70.
Examining data from 18,345 fully retired men between the ages of 50 and 70, the study found that at the time they retired, their overall well-being and sense of life satisfaction improved - no matter what age they were when they left their careers. The study also found that happiness levels fell rapidly after a few years of retirement, but stabilized by age 70.
"A later formal retirement simply delays the well-being benefits of retirement in men, and age of formal retirement is relatively neutral with regard to overall happiness," said study author Dr. Elizabeth Mokyr Horner. She added that well-being seems to be affected only marginally, if at all, by retirement.
These findings are particularly important given the current retirement trends of baby boomers. According to an April 2012 Gallup survey of non-retired adults, the average American expects to retire at age 67, which is four years later than those polled in 2002 and seven years later than those polled in the mid-1990s.
So why are Americans staying in the workforce longer? According to The New York Times, the increase in retirement age actually stems from good news. People are living healthier and longer than they used to, and the nature of work has changed from manual labor to less strenuous work that they can continue to do as they age. Plus, more people are educated, and studies show that the more education an individual has, the longer he or she is likely to keep working. Of course, the economy is a driver for many seniors who stay in the workforce - they do so because they simply cannot afford to retire.
A number of seniors also stay because they enjoy working, whether because they love what they do, stay active through their routine or enjoy the social stimulation it provides.