Men's generative narratives : making meaning in retirement

by Anthony Brown

Institution: University of Western Sydney
Year: 2014
Keywords: Thesis (Ph.D.) – University of Western Sydney, 2014; retirement; social networks; voluntary workers; community workers; Australia; ;
Record ID: 1060770
Full text PDF: http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/543337


This thesis interprets and describes older men’s experience of retirement using hermeneutic phenomenology and narrative analysis. The experiences and narratives of nine retired men who all participated in a hobby or enthusiast group were recorded and analysed in order to determine what makes a ‘good’ retirement and the impact of being active in an enthusiasm has on adjusting to retirement. The study is informed by the philosophical phenomenology of Heidegger and the hermeneutics of Gadamer. Narrative analysis was used to uncover some of the meanings the men attached to their current circumstances in retirement and to their involvement in various enthusiasms. In-depth interviews were conducted with the men who were all members of enthusiast or hobby groups. The narratives from these interviews were subjected to structural, thematic, and dialogic/performance analyses for insight into how they ordered and made sense of their experiences of work, retirement, and being an enthusiast. The men’s narratives reveal that having an enthusiasm and being part of an enthusiast community helped negotiate the transition to retirement by providing continuity of an enthusiast sub-identity during this time of change. Wider cultural narratives about male retirement were used by the men as reference points to make and share meaning around their experiences of retirement. These wider cultural narratives universally portray retirement as a difficult time for men, which creates a dilemma for men who are enjoying their retirement. The men used the available negative cultural narratives of male retirement by comparing their own positive experience with someone they believe fitted the cultural narratives. In this the men both perpetuate and discursively distance their own experiences from the negative cultural narratives. The men’s narratives also reveal what appears to be attempts to create a new ‘shared’ identity as a retiree. An apparently new cultural narrative about leaving work appears to be circulating in Western Sydney, through which men can link their own experiences and still construct a shared understanding of what it means to be retired. These findings extend knowledge of older men’s identities in retirement, as well as identifying the importance of the structure of cultural narratives and different narrative genres in constructing and conveying meaning.