Retirement is the status of a worker who has stopped working. This usually happens upon reaching a determined age, when physical conditions don't allow the person to work any more (by illness or accident), or even for personal choice (usually in the presence of an adequate pension). The retirement with a pension is considered a right of the worker in many societies, and hard ideological, social, cultural and political battles have been fought for this right to be granted. In many western countries this right is mentioned in national constitutions.
In most countries, the idea of a fixed retirement age is of recent origin, being introduced during the 19th and 20th centuries - before then, the absence of pension arrangements meant that most workers had to continue to work until death, or rely on the support of family or friends. Nowadays most developed nations have systems to provide pensions on retirement in old age, which may be sponsored by employers or the state. In many poorer countries, support for the old is still mainly provided through the family.
The retirement age varies from country to country but it is generally between 55 and 70. In some countries this age is different for male and females. Sometimes certain jobs, the most dangerous or fatiguing ones in particular, have an earlier retirement age.
Support and funds
Retired workers then support themselves either through superannuation or pensions. In most cases the money is provided by the government, but sometimes granted only by private subscriptions to mutual funds. In this latter case, subscriptions might be compulsory or voluntary. In some countries an additional "bonus" is granted una tantum (once only) in proportion to the years of work and the average wages; this is usually provided by the employer.
The financial weight of provision of pensions on a government's budget is often heavy and is the reason for political debates about the retirement age. The state might be interested in a later retirement age for economic reasons.
The cost of health care in retirement is large, because people tend to be ill more frequently in later life. Increasing numbers of older people, combined with an increase in the cost of healthcare, has led to the funding of post-retirement health care becoming a political issue. There is then pressure to reform healthcare systems to contain costs, or find new sources of funding.
Retirement might coincide with important life changes; a retired worker might move to a new location, for example a specialised retirement village, thereby having less frequent contact with their previous social context.
In some countries, retired workers will continue to participate in the life of their family and their society, often following ancient ethnic roles. Some countries are sponsoring initiatives to help retired workers keep contributing to social and cultural life.
Outside a retirement home
Many people in the later years of their lives, due to failing health, require assistance, the highest degree of assistance - in some countries - being provided in a nursing home. Those who need care, but are not in need of constant assistance, may choose to live in a retirement home. This is a facility giving the retired person some degree of freedom, yet with close-by medical assistance to handle emergencies.
Retirement ceases if the retiree decides to go back to work. Typically, retirees who go back to work are people who find the lack of activity boring and work mainly for their own amusement, often turning a hobby into a job. Old-age pensions are usually not reduced because of other income, so the latter comes on top of the former. This may be different in the case of a disability pension.