Transition to Retirement: A Guide to Inclusive Practice: Adaptations for the Current U.S. Context

Chapter 2: Promoting Retirement

Chapter 2 of the TTR manual proposes several ways to provide positive messages about aging and retirement, such as:

  • Create an older workers’ group
  • Develop a regular and accessible newsletter
  • Recruit some well-respected flagbearers to spread the word
  • Hold information sessions for families and caregivers

Adaptations for the Current U.S. Context

Pre-Retirement Education

Research shows consistently that many people with IDD have little understanding of retirement, have made no retirement plans, and have negative views about retiring (Bigby et al., 2011; McDermott & Edwards, 2012).

In the light of the widespread lack of knowledge of retirement, many researchers have advocated for Pre-Retirement Education for people with IDD, to facilitate informed decision making. We agree that this is a worthwhile approach, but we know of no available education curriculum or resources that cover the full range of retirement issues. Partial resources are available, such as the TTR manual itself and its associated videos, plus the items in the References and Resources list.

Gradual Reduction in Days at Work

Chapter 2 (p. 21*) advocates a gradual reduction in days at work so the worker:

  • has a clear sense of control over the retirement process
  • while still working, joins inclusive community activities that can be continued into retirement
  • retains existing work-related social connections and routines through working part time

Some people prefer to continue to work part time rather than eventually retiring fully. Others who already work part time may choose to join a community group on their days off and not cut down their days at work. Any of these options is possible depending on the individual’s preferences and circumstances.

Reduction in Days Worked in Sheltered Employment. The TTR approach was developed and tested with workers in Australian sheltered employment (Bigby et al., 2014; Stancliffe et al., 2015) where the disability employment service provider was also the person’s employer. In these circumstances, it was relatively easy for the person to arrange to stop working on the particular weekday when their chosen community group met. It seems that reducing the number of workdays and/or hours worked is also common practice with older workers in U.S. sheltered employment (Anderson et al., 2023), so implementing a gradual transition to retirement for U.S. workers in sheltered employment should also be feasible.

Reduction in Days Worked in Mainstream Employment. This situation may differ for workers in mainstream employment. Arranging to reduce the number of days worked per week and no longer working on a particular weekday (to enable attendance at a chosen community group) may not suit the employer’s requirements and could prove difficult or impossible to negotiate.

Brotherton’s research (Brotherton, 2022; Brotherton et al., 2023) is the only known example of using an intervention similar to TTR to support the retirement of workers with IDD from mainstream employment. Brotherton et al. (2023, p. 1019) noted that in attending a community group regularly “Work schedules were also a factor as working participants typically had 1 day a week available.” There was no mention of negotiating with the employer for additional days off to accommodate community group attendance. Likewise, Brotherton (2022, p. 207) reported that one participant “commenced an activity fortnightly around a rotating work roster.”

Many people with IDD in mainstream employment work part time, both in Australia (Brotherton et al., 2023) and the U.S. (Anderson et al., 2023), and could fit community group attendance around current work hours without reducing their days at work, just as some of Brotherton’s participants did. In turn, this constraint may reduce the range of community groups that the person could choose to join, because feasibility depends on the group meeting on the person’s existing days off or outside of work hours.

Right of Return to Pre-existing Work Arrangements

As mentioned in the TTR manual (p. 21), a time-limited right of return to pre-existing work arrangements was a successful feature of the original TTR research in Australia. This issue is also discussed in Appendix B Forms, Right of return letter.

It will rarely if ever be possible to guarantee such a right of return when implementing TTR in the U.S., so this option should not be offered to prospective retirees. Indeed, even in Australia in Brotherton’s research, no such guarantee was offered to potential retirees with IDD from mainstream employment (Brotherton, 2022; Brotherton et al., 2023).

However, Brotherton (2022, p. 207) did describe one approach that may be workable in some cases. A person who wanted to retire fully used her available paid time off as a trial of full retirement, with the knowledge that she could choose to return from her “vacation” to her existing work hours. It may also be possible to do something similar to trial reduced work hours and/or full retirement.

Retirement Indicators

On page 22 of the TTR manual, various retirement indicators are listed that could serve as signs that the worker should consider the option of full or partial retirement and may benefit from the TTR program.

More recent research and experience has identified additional retirement indicators, namely:

  • Problems with travel to or from work (Anderson et al., 2023; Brotherton et al., 2020)
  • Falls or injuries at work or while traveling to work (Brotherton et al., 2020)
  • Declining mobility (Stancliffe et al., 2019)
  • Pain when working or traveling to work (e.g., arthritis) (Asuman et al., 2023)

None of these issues means a person must retire. As with all such indicators, a person-centered focus is essential when supporting the person to deal with the issue. Full or partial retirement is only one possible response. Changes in working and/or travel arrangements, workplace accommodations, and appropriate health care are all valuable approaches.

Page numbers

* Most readers will be using the eBook version of the TTR manual. The page numbers used throughout this document come from the printed hard copy of the manual. For these page-number references to make sense, make sure you choose the eBook view that presents the text in its original printed format and page numbering.