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Nora, NHS Nurse

Managing major life changes

We want more people to successfully manage the major changes that occur in later life.

Many changes occur in later life – such as retirement, becoming a carer, bereavement, or developing a long-term health condition. These can be challenging to navigate and affect our wellbeing. We are initially focusing on preparing emotionally for retirement, as resources at this point may also help support later life changes.

If you’re in a long-term relationship with someone in your working life, when you come to retire then life changes and not always for the better. So splitting up and becoming a divorcee might be something that happens to you.
retirement card

We want more people to successfully manage the transition into retirement.

Why work on it?

There are many changes in later life, involving both loss and opportunity, and navigating these changes can be difficult practically, financially and emotionally. Some people find it easier to adjust, and others struggle with certain transitions.

Our research (Later life in 2015, Ipsos MORI) found that people’s attitudes, outlook and social connections were a major factor in whether they were happy in later life. Some people who had lost a partner or were retired struggled to maintain social connections and lacked companionship. In contrast, some people’s strong social connections helped them manage such changes. See our six later life segments section for more details.

Maintaining wellbeing in periods of change can be difficult. And people may experience multiple life changes in later life – people may retire and then lose a partner; or develop a chronic health condition and take on caring responsibilities for others at the same time. Our workshops with people with lived experience showed strong support to explore methods that can help people deal successfully with major life changes, to enable them to live happier lives.

There is relatively limited evidence on what works to support people emotionally through such life changes: the evidence review on Emotional and personal resilience through life, from the Government Office for Science’s Foresight project on the future of an ageing population, highlighted the lack of interventions focused on resilience in later life. A scoping review of Transitions in Later Life undertaken for the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK) by Guy Robertson also found this.

Nora's video

One in five adults (20%) who retired in the last five years have admitted to finding transitioning into retirement difficult

What we’re working on
Get involved
  • Are you are doing relevant research?
  • Do you have personal experience that could help inform the design of interventions and solutions?
  • We are also interested in what pre-retirement support employers and other organisations provide.
  • Are you running a programme to support people through retirement or working in this field?
  • Please get in touch if you have information to contribute or ideas you'd like to share.