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Using a Mixed Vignettes and Interview
Responses Convergence Method to
Understand What Do Retirees Value
University of Social Sciences, Singapore
Submission: October 13, 2020;Published: November 06, 2020
*Corresponding author: Amberyce Ang, PhD candidate, University of Social Sciences, Singaporea
How to cite this article: Amberyce A. Bi-direction Coding for Qualitative Analysis Surfaced the Importance of Social Connectedness as a Coping Mechanism in Retirement Transition. OAJ Gerontol & Geriatric Med. 2020; 5(5): 555675. DOI: 10.19080/OAJGGM.2020.05.555675
This study had designed a vignette and interview responses convergence method to enhance the validity of the findings. This unique method was applied in a research to understand the values of 103 retirees. The vignette and interview responses convergence method were found to be particularly effective in illuminating tacit and deeper information, such as the values and attitudes of retirees. The method detected contradictions between the vignette responses and the interview responses, thereby leading to further probing. As a result, insights on retirees’ prioritization of various values were gleaned. This study recommended that future research test the reliability of the vignette and interview responses convergence method on larger scale studies and triangulate with quantitative analytical methods to strengthen the model.
Retirement studies differ as to whether retirement is a positive, negative or neutral experience and the factors that influenced retirement satisfaction are debatable . In fact, Henning,  argued that retirement has no effect on wellbeing. In addition to differing outcomes in retirement studies, literature review on retirement found that it encompassed a wide range of sub-topics and themes . identified the three most popular discourses of retirement to be on financing retirement, charting a new retirement course and staying active in retirement . on the other hand, identified four conceptualizations of retirement as a decision-making process, an adjustment process, a career development stage and retirement as part of human resource management. In line with the popular discourses identified by Getting’s and the conceptualizations by Wang and Shultz, this study had chosen to focus on understanding how retirees chart their “new retirement course” as their retirement adjustment process.
For the purpose of this study, “retirement” is defined as full withdrawal from career employment and “retirees” as those who have fully ceased employment from formal career. Retirement is considered as “voluntary” in this study if the individual had made the choice to fully cease career employment or was ready and willing to fully withdraw from formal career employment even if the choice was absent. An example of voluntary retirement is the absence of choice when the older worker could no longer extend
employment due to mandatory retirement age but was ready to retire and willingly accepted the retirement as a natural and inevitable progression in life.
In contrast, retirement is considered “involuntary” if the choice for the individual to continue career employment in any form was absent. Involuntary retirement also refers to retirement in which a choice to fully withdraw from formal career employment was made, but it was a choice against the individual’s preference to continue employment in his or her career employment. Common scenarios in which older workers had involuntary retirement were when they reached mandatory retirement age and re-employment age, when they chose to retire because of familial obligations such as grandparenting needs, and when they were compelled to resign because of unhappiness or stress at work.
This study aimed to understand what do retirees’ value and how the fulfilment of what is important to them or the absence of it, had affected their retirement experience. For these research aims, this study had applied an innovative use of vignettes
1) To uncover tacit information such as retirees’ attitudes, perspectives, and values.
2) To tease out the priorities accorded to the various values by creating scenarios with competing interests.
3) To tally with interview responses.
Vignettes are “short stories about hypothetical characters
in specified circumstances, to which the interviewee is invited
to respond” . In comparison, traditional surveys have strong
internal validity because the variables can be well-controlled.
Classical experiments on the other hand, lack external validity
because they do not accurately replicate real-world situations.
Vignette can identify the effect of individual variables on
respondents’ judgments . Vignettes can mitigate the limitations
of traditional surveys and classical experiments because the
hypothetical scenarios are more realistic than general questions
about judgements  Vignettes were employed in both qualitative
and quantitative research methods and for different purposes.
They can be used to explore actions in particular situational
contexts and elucidate influential variables. An example is a
study by , which compared results from conjoint and vignette
analyses on which immigrant attributes were more favorable for
the citizenship applications of foreign residents.
Vignettes are also used to clarify judgements, particularly
in moral dilemmas. An example of such a study was the use
of vignettes to explore rape victimization attitudes with a
confounded and fractional factorial design for analysis . The
aim was to investigate which of the permutations of factors was
affecting the judgments of users, and to what extent. Furthermore,
vignettes are useful in eliciting responses that are less subjected
to social desirability bias and to allow the participants to discuss
sensitive experiences using third person experiences. An example
is Huges use of vignettes to study drug injecting and HIV risk
and safer behavior. Vignettes can use open or closed questions.
Open questions are usually used in quantitative applications
of vignettes such as factorial surveys or ratings on a scale Faia,
1980 Open questions allow participants to express and explain
their views. In this study, vignettes were used as a complimentary
source of data collection to the interview on life satisfaction. Seven
vignettes based on common profiles of retirees in Singapore
were designed and then administered to participants after the
interview. Participants were invited to rate their responses on a
five-point likert-scale. The intention was to use the likert scale
scoring to indicate participants’ rating for only one variable – life
satisfaction. It was not intended to rank the influence of factors in
participants’ decisions, nor to measure values and attitudes. The
likert scale scoring was also meant to guide participants to give a
rating first, and then explain why they had assigned the particular
rating for the participant. Likert-scale scoring could also give
quantitative comparisons amongst the seven vignettes.
The original intention of using vignettes in this study
was to validate participants’ responses in the interviews and
questionnaires and to detect any discrepancies. As an added layer
of analysis, when interview responses were compared against
vignette responses, reliability checks between the respondents’
personal experiences and their views towards others (as portrayed
by fictitious characters in the vignettes) were made possible.
This study used data collected from vignettes to complement
interview responses. The two sets of data were analysed separately
before comparing and contrasting the two sets of data. If the two
sets of data tallied, the findings were supported. If contradictions
arise, then the researcher probed the participants further to
uncover deeper concerns and values of the participants. For
instance, if a participant expressed a strong interest in community
activities but gave a bad rating to the vignette character who is
socially active, the researcher probed and found out that the
participant valued familial relations over social relations. The
participant had given a bad rating for the socially active vignette
character because the character did not enjoy close familial
relations despite having numerous friendships and an active
lifestyle. By using this mixed interview and vignettes method,
inconsistencies in participant’s responses can be surfaced, which
in turn led to deeper uncovering of participants’ inner thoughts,
values, attitudes, concerns and further considerations that might
not be apparent from interview responses alone. Analytical
findings could be better validated by comparing the two sets of
data through this vignettes and interview responses convergence
method (Figure 1).
Seven vignettes portraying fictitious characters who bear
common profiles of retirees in Singapore were given to 103
retirees (Table 1). They were asked to assume the characters’
retirement lifestyle and then select how satisfied they were with
the retirement of each of the seven characters. It was observed
that a few of the participants had initially selected their responses
based on what the participants think the character would
have preferred. It was then explained to the participants that
they were to select a response from the five-point likert scale
ranging from “very satisfied” retirement to “very dissatisfied”
retirement, based on how they (the participant) would have
rated his or her own retirement satisfaction if he or she assumed
the character’s retirement profile. Participants had to assume
intersubjectivity (position-taking). The vignettes were used in a
retirement study to understand what contributed to retirees’ life
satisfaction. The intention of including vignettes was initially to
suss out discrepancies between participant’s responses relating
to their personal retirement satisfaction through first person’s
perspective, vis-à-vis the retirement satisfaction of others from
a third person’s perspective. For example, if the participant had
negative responses towards her role as a caregiver, it was then
assumed that the same participant would have similar negative
responses for the fictious character in the vignette who had to
provide caregiving for her husband. If the participant had given
a different rating, then the vignettes would have helped to detect
inconsistencies in the participant’s earlier responses, to allow
clarification with the participants and to ensure higher reliability
of the questionnaire design.
During the data collection process however, it was noted that
the values of participants were reflected in their explanation of
how they had accorded the rating to each of the character in the
vignettes. Five points were accorded to every rating for “very
satisfied” retirement, four points for “satisfied” retirement, three
points for “neutral” or “ambivalent” towards the retirement
profile, two points for “dissatisfied retirement” and one point for
“very dissatisfied retirement”.
First Vignette – Good Health and Social Engagement
For the first vignette, the average score was an ambivalent 3
points out of 5 points. Participants explained that the character Mr
Tan was happy to have good financial resources and a harmonious
marriage. However, participants opined that he would be bored
with such a lonely lifestyle after the first year of retirement.
Participants felt that he should have more social interactions and
contribute more to society. Gender bias was also echoed in the
participants’ sentiment that a man would not be satisfied with
such a “domesticated” lifestyle after a while. A 60-year old female
retiree remarked that “I don’t think that the man will be happy
because he is so domesticated”.
Participants acknowledged that having good financial
resources and a happy marriage were important, but they would
not be satisfied if the social element was missing. Retirees also felt
that the social element was essential in life and should not only
be fulfilled by the spouse. Some retirees shared that the couple
should have a good balance of quality time together and time with
others. A 62-year old female retiree opined that “We will quarrel
every day if we spend too much time together”. A 63-year old male
retiree had similar opinion “Cannot lah. what if my wife leaves
before me, then I will have no friends if she is the only person that
I spend time within my retirement”?
Second Vignette – Full-time Grandparenting is Undesired by
Most, but Balance between Self, Family and Others is Crucial. For
the second vignette, the average score was 3.6 out of 5 points.
Participants explained that they would be “quite satisfied” to have
Mrs. Lim’s retirement profile because she led a balanced life. Mrs.
Lim enjoyed good health, friendships and family relations. It was
also a bonus to participants that Mrs. Lim could remain employed
in her career employment till the maximum re-employment age of
67 years in Singapore.
Despite the positive sentiment towards Mrs. Lim, the average
score did not reach a positive “4” point (representing “satisfied”),
possibly because the score was lowered by a number of negative
responses from retirees who expressed that they did not wish to
commit to grandparenting duties on a daily basis. Most retirees
only wanted to help out in grandparenting on a part-time or adhoc
basis. A 62-year old female retiree said “I don’t want to be
tied down by grandparenting, but I also want to spend time with
my grandchildren, so I am happy to drop by to play with them or
whenever my son needs my help with the grandparenting”.
A 72-year old female retiree explained that
“I want to help my daughter and I like spending time with my
grandchildren. They make me so happy, but I also don’t want to
get too involved because the parenting and grandparenting styles
are different. My daughter thinks that I spoil them too much”.
A 65-year old male retiree added
“I told my children that I don’t want to do grandparenting on
weekdays. I want my own time. I told my children that my wife
and I can help them, just let us know whenever they need. I told
them that on weekdays, the grandchildren can go to childcare, but
on weekdays, I will help them with the grandparenting so that
they can have couple time on weekends when they don’t work.
The value of achieving “balance” in life was strongly echoed in
participants’ responses. Not only did participants want to balance
family relations and social relations, but retirees also wanted to
have a good balance of their time and commitment. They felt that
they had worked hard for decades in their career employment,
so retirement was a “me” time, in which they could do what they
want, relax and not be burdened by stressful grandparenting
duties. They did not want to be “grounded” again. They wanted to
have a second phase of life whereby they could enjoy the activities
and relationships as they would have preferred, before they “get
too old” to move about and be active in their retirement.
However, some shared the view that they had neglected their
family when they were building up their career, so they would like
to “make up” for their absence in the past by being more involved
in grandparenting now. Gender differences were observed.
Female retirees did not wish to shoulder grandparenting duties
alone. Male retirees on the other hand wanted to play with the
grandchildren and take them out. They preferred that their wives
do the daily care routine for the grandchildren because they felt
lost in these duties.
A 68-year old female retiree said
“I didn’t mind retiring even though I wanted to carry on work,
but my company didn’t allow me. I felt that it is time to spend
more time with my family because I was too busy working in the
past. Helping to look after my grandchildren is like making up for
my absence as their mother in the past. I also feel for my daughter
and my son-in-law, when I see that they are tired and do not have
A 68-year male retiree said
“I like to visit my grandchildren more often, but my wife
doesn’t want to be tied down. I like to take them out to play and
I learn to bathe them, feed them and help out together with my
wife, but it is more fun to play with them and bring them out”.
Third Vignette – Importance of Balance between Enjoyment
and Being Prudent, and Having a Meaningful Retirement For
the third vignette, the average score was 3.8 out of 5 points.
Participants explained that they would be “quite satisfied” to have
Madam Anita’s retirement profile because she led a balanced life.
The idea of “balance” was repeated in participants’ responses
again, which signified the importance of “balance” as a value for
retirees. Participants felt that Madam Anita was in good health
and got to travel and spend time with her friends, so they opined
that Madam Anita is enjoying her life. However, participants did
not give Madam Anita a higher rating because they explained that
Madam Anita might be “overdoing it” especially when she did not
have strong financial resources. Some participants opined that her
frequent travels were “frivolous” and that she was a “spendthrift”.
Participants felt that Madam Anita should live within her means
as a retiree and be prudent with her savings for the rest of her
Participants also wondered if Madam Anita would be happy
to return to work to accumulate savings. This view reflected how
retirees who wanted to extend work life in career employment or
bridge employment were not primarily motivated by money. In
fact, they found it negative to have to work for the sake of money
upon reaching retirement age. Involuntary bridge employment
appeared to be a chore, if retirees had to continue “slogging it out”
in old age. A 72-year old female retiree said “Good what. She is
healthy and can travel, but not too much lah. If you keep spending
money and have to work for money, then also no meaning”.
On the contrary, some participants felt that Madam Anita was
blessed to be able to have bridge employment because she could
be financially independent. They opined that she was still useful
to society and could continue to lead the lifestyle she desired. A
70-year old female retiree said “At least she can find a job then
it is ok to spend what you earn and enjoy yourself. If not wait
till when?”. Another value that was also echoed was “time to do
what I like”. Participants shared that retirement was a time for
themselves. After working hard and non-stop for a few decades,
participants felt that it was only right to enjoy retirement years
in good health. Similar to how participants did not want to be
tied down by grandparenting demands in the second vignette,
“enjoyment, rest and relaxation” were the underlying values that
In addition, retirees also valued “meaning in life”. Although
Madam Anita was enjoying her retirement, some participants
felt that it will be meaningless if she kept travelling for the rest
of her retirement and not have other purposes in life. For some
participants, they felt that Madam Anita’s engagement in postretirement
work had made her retirement more meaningful.
Some participants felt that she should balance “enjoyment” with
more family time or contribution to society, so that her retirement
could be enjoyable and meaningful. A 63-year old male retiree
commented “Not good… if you keep travelling and nothing else, it
feels quite empty”.
Fourth Vignette – Caregiving is Undesired but Socioemotional
Support is Appreciated and Cushioned the Negativity of Caregiving
For the fourth vignette, the average score was 3 out of 5
points. Participants appeared to be ambivalent towards Madam
Puha’s retirement profile because of her caregiving role. However,
participants did not rate Madam Puha’s retirement negatively
because Mdm Phua had good support from friends and opined
that she ought to be grateful for that. A 62-year old female retiree
said “Her friends are good. Visit her at her house regularly. What
more can you ask for?”.
“No one wants to be in her shoes. No one enjoys caregiving but
cannot say do not like or do not want because we have to look after
our spouse. This is the way it should be, so no point thinking about
whether this is good or bad. Just have to accept and fulfill your
duties. No choice”. Caregiving was viewed negatively because it
tied the caregiver down, like a “second career”. Participants found
it extremely disappointing that Madam Phua had to transit from
her long work span into caregiving in retirement. They empathized
with Madam Phua as she “cannot enjoy her retirement”, “cannot
travel”, “cannot go out and meet friends”, “cannot be socially
active”, “cannot visit places”, “cannot do the things that she like”,
“cannot relax” and “cannot enjoy retirement with her husband”.
In other words, they did not wish to have worked hard yet not be
able to taste the fruits of their labor and faced a retirement that
filled with limitations and obligations.
Participants considered that Madam Phua had the necessary
social and emotional support from friends and gave a more balanced
response that reflected ambivalence, rather than negativity.
This sentiment also reinforced retirees’ value on “health” and
“friendships” as key to successful ageing. In Madam Phua’s case,
her husband’s poor health had compromised her happiness, but
“friendships” is the saving grace for the circumstance. However,
when “health” was pitted against “friendships”, participants
valued “health” more than “friendships” because they viewed that
“health” was essential and a pre-requisite to enjoy retirement.
In comparison, friendship was an important element in happy
retirements and a cushion for negative impacts from other aspects
of life, but not a determinant of successful ageing. Participants
could still acquire social and emotional support from family
members if friends were not available.
Fifth Vignette – Loss of Societal Value Led to Unfulfilling
For the fifth vignette, the average score was 2.5 out of 5 points.
Participants explained that they would be “dissatisfied” to have Mr
Thiru’s retirement profile because he was unfulfilled. Participants
empathized with Mr Thiru because he could not secure a job that
he would have preferred, despite investing significant amount
of time and money on his degree course. Participants who could
not successfully secure bridge employment were disappointed
with their own predicament, so they could empathize the greater
disappointment which Mr Thiru must have felt, because he had
invested more effort and money to secure bridge employment. Mr
Thiru ended up becoming a Grab driver, which he could have done
so, without having to invest in a part-time degree course.
Participants felt that he was foolish to have high hopes of
himself at retirement age. They felt that he was not realistic,
and they would not have upgraded themselves through a degree
course, only to end up being unfulfilled and disappointed.
Participants assumed that Mr Thiru has a sad retirement because
he felt “unwanted” despite “trying so hard”. A 62-year old male
retiree questioned “Why try so hard when you are already so old?
It makes you feel worse, even more unwanted”. A 63-year old male
retiree said, “I don’t think that he is happy driving grab because
he wanted more”.
A 64-year old male retiree elaborated
“Of course, disappointed if I were him. Why does he want to
study at this age to look for a job? Employers wouldn’t want you
anyway. Cannot escape from the age factor. He is too old. It is very
difficult for any retirees to find a job. Employers will always tell
you that you are too old”. The value which participant expressed
to be important through their responses for this vignette was the
value of “fulfilment” or a “meaningful retirement”. Participants
viewed retirement as a time which they could look back and know
that they were valued, rather than feel dejected by society or by
employers. Participants also opined that being satisfied with life
was also about feeling fulfilled and not only about enjoyment.
Sixth Vignette – Family Relations Prioritized Over
For the sixth vignette, the average score was 3.2 out of 5
points. Participants were mixed in their responses with regards
to Mr Hasan’s retirement profile because he was socially active
and seemed to have a fulfilling life with his voluntary work and
with his community activities. However, participants did not give
an affirmative rating of “satisfied” or “very satisfied” because
participants expressed that he might not be as happy as what
it seemed. They reasoned that his children hardly visited him
and having a wide social network did not equate to having true
friendships. Participants expressed their preference to have fewer
but closer friends. Most participants did not expect Mr Hasan’s
wife to accompany him in all the activities and were fine to have
separate social networks as long as both parties were happy with
their lives and enjoyed a harmonious relationship together.
A 65-year old female retiree said
“It is ok for his (Mr Hasan’s) wife to have her own hobbies.
Husband and wife should have activities of their own, things that
they like to do and friends of their own. They do not have to do
the same thing all the time. As long as they don’t quarrel, and as
long as they are happy with their own lives, it is ok”. However,
participants were less accepting of the fact that Mr Hasan’s
children seldom visited him. Participants expressed that they
would like their children to respect and love them in their old
age. They perceived the lack of contact between Mr Hasan and his
children as being emotionally distant and forgotten. Participants
would accept physical distance, but they also expected their
children to maintain sufficient contact with them. A 63-year
old male retiree commented “No lah, his children don’t seem to
want him. I will be sad if I were him”. When probed further on
whether the active life and social networking make up for the lack
of closeness with the children, participants echoed the value that
“friendships are important, but family is even more important than
friends”. While friendships can supplement family relationships,
friends cannot substitute family relations. A 64-year old female
said that “Friends are important, but I wouldn’t be happy having
good friendships and bad family relations. I would rather have
good family relationships”. Participants placed great importance
on family relations and “filial piety” because these are very strong
Asian concepts. In the context of a small country like Singapore,
visits to parents are not as difficult in terms of physical distance,
as compared to other bigger countries. Participants could accept
living on their own or with their spouse, but they did not want to
be forgotten by their children.
Seventh Vignette – Social Engagement and Having Real
Life Relationships are Important
For the seventh vignette, the average score was 2.7 out of 5
points. Participants expressed dissatisfaction with Miss Tan’s
retirement profile because they found her to be a loner. In fact,
some participants were certain that they could not accept such
a life, and remarked that this was worse than Madam Phua, who
still had friends to visit her despite being grounded at home
because of caregiving responsibilities. As the questionnaire was
administered to participants, a few participants had even stopped
the investigator from reading the seventh vignette halfway
through, laughed. A 72-year old female retiree remarked “Aiyo
(laughs)… no way. Don’t need to read anymore. Very dissatisfied
(laughs)”. Such negative sentiments were reflected in the lower
score of. 2.7 as compared to the rating of 3 points given to Madam
Participants did not agree that social media could replace
personal or face-to-face interactions. Even participants who
were single retirees found Miss Tan’s life to be “boring” and
opined that she should spend some time in real life with others.
Being single does not equate to being lonely. A 66-year old male
retiree said “This is so boring. Maybe she likes it this way, but
I can’t. There are no interactions with others. I don’t use social
media like her”. The value that retirees expressed through their
responses towards Miss Tan’s retirement profile, was the value
of “social connectedness”. Retirees belonging to the baby boomer
generation did not consider interactions through social media to
be the same as interactions in person. Perhaps they were not as
heavy in their social media usage as the younger generations or
perhaps they grew up in a generation that was used to interactions
in person. This showed that “social connectedness” was not only
high in importance, but also took on a different meaning from
generation to generation. Comparing Vignette Responses with
Participants regarded retirement as a personal decision, so
they did not see the need to discuss it with their family members.
They assumed that if their spouses had other opinions, they could
voice it out when “being informed” of their decision. A 60-year
old female retiree said “I want him to continue working so I didn’t
discuss, it is good that he continues working as I choose to retire
early, so that he can still bring in the income and support me”.
Moreover, they did not want to pressurize their spouse to retire,
nor to influence his or her retirement plan. A 72-year old male
retiree “I didn’t want to impose my decision on her. She likes her
job, so she should continue working. I tell my wife that she can
retire whenever she wants to retire. It is up to her, and likewise
my retirement is up to me”. Similar to Mr Tan’s unsynchronized
retirement with his wife, most married participants did not
synchronize their retirement.
A 62-year old female retiree said
“No lah, no need to synchronize. I do not need my husband
to spend time with me. I have my own life, my own friends and
things that I want to do. Even if he does not want to retire, I will
A 60-year old male retiree said
“No need to synchronize. I know that she likes to work, so I
will let her continue working. She is also younger than me. I am
also afraid that if we spend too much time together, we might
quarrel every day!”
A 65-year old female retiree said
“No. I can’t control. It was time for me to retire. I did not ask my
husband to retire because I know that he will be happier working.
He is the kind who must work. He does not have many friends and
he also would not join in my kind of activities”. Marital satisfaction
for married couples who were both retirees might not increase,
especially if they were not spending more quality time with their
spouse after retirement. Similar to Mr Hassan in the seventh
vignette, who appeared to have a harmonious relationship with
his wife but living separate lives, some couples had different
interests and did not share common network of friends.
A 69-year old male retiree said “No, we are not closer. We lead
separate lives after retirement. She goes out every day with her
friends. We don’t do things together”. Similarly, for a 67-year old
male retiree who said “still the same. I hardly see her. She has her
own life and does not ask me along. If she asked me to go along
with her, I would” Marital satisfaction might also not increase
further for couples who were already spending sufficient quality
time together before retirement and the relationship was already
very good. In fact, marital satisfaction for some had decreased
because of increased conflicts as they spent more time together.
In this aspect, marital status may not influence retirement
satisfaction as much as marital satisfaction. A 65-year old female
retiree expressed “Aiyo, worse! We quarreled a lot more! He is
“My wife expected me to do more household chores after
retirement and she has a lot more expectations on me, which
isn’t my idea of retirement. We quarreled more because I am
not meeting her standards, even when I do a lot more chores at
home nowadays” (M018) Retirees were happy to be independent,
have separate networks and different activities in retirement as
long as they could grow old harmoniously together. Most retirees
were happy to strike a good balance between couple time and
personal time. The underlying values were happiness with their
own retirement and to age harmoniously with their spouse. In
line with Barbosa, Monteiro and Murat’s (2016) findings, having
an intimate relationship with spouse is a protective factor on the
negative impacts of retirement. In exceptional cases, this study
had two retired couples who pursued their passions in their
retirement years together, as a form of making up for the loss
time when they were building their careers. They defined their
retirement with common goals, common passions and common
activities, and centered the other aspects of their lives on doing
things together and enjoying retirement together.
Grandparenting – A Part-time Commitment or Ad-hoc
37 out of 103 participants were involved in some form of
grandparenting, but only four out of the 37 participants were
heavily involved in grandparenting. The other 33 participants
were only involved in grandparenting when requested to stand in.
The four participants were looking after the grandchildren on a
full-time basis. Age of the grandchildren and level of responsibility
significantly influenced the stress level of retirees who were
involved in grandparenting. The stress level was high for two of
the participants even though their children had employed foreign
domestic helpers to assist them in the grandparenting. They lived
with their grandchildren and took care of their daily needs, such as
preparing meals, bathing the baby, coaxing the children to sleep,
supervising their schoolwork in the day and taking them out.
For the other two participants with older grandchildren and no
domestic helpers, they did not find grandparenting to be stressful
because the grandchildren were independent and also able to
communicate better. They bonded through communications
and activities and were not a burden that required constant
A 61-year old female retiree said
“My daughter really needs my help. The grandchildren are too
young to be sent to the childcare and we can’t trust the helper. I am
waiting for them to grow up a bit more, then I can rest more when
they attend childcare. That’s when I see the light at the end of the
tunnel. No choice for now. It is tiring and so stressful, but I cannot
just stop looking after them”. Congruent with the responses given
for the second vignette in which participants gave favorable ratings
for Mrs. Lim’s part-time grandparenting but emphasized that they
did not want to be tied down by grandparenting, participants also
shared in their interview responses that they preferred part-time
or ad-hoc grandparenting whenever their children needed help.
In general, participants were not keen to do grandparenting on
a full-time basis because they felt that they would be tied down
again, but might have chosen to do so because of the obligation to
help their children, especially when requested by their children.
This study termed this form of grandparenting as “involuntary
grandparenting” as they would have chosen not to bear this
grandparenting responsibility if they were not obliged to do so. It
is observed that involuntary grandparenting caused stress while
voluntary grandparenting gave participants fulfilment.
Caregiving – Having a Helper Alleviates Stress and Allows the
Caregiver to Find Fulfilment in the Role
16 out of 103 participants were involved in direct caregiving of
a family member. Only four out of these 16 participants had chosen
to retire primarily because of the desire to provide caregiving for
their spouse or their aged parent. The other 12 participants were
only involved in caregiving after their retirement. Out of a fivepoint
likert scale, participants gave an average rating of 3.7 for the
level of fulfilment as a caregiver. A 61-year old female retiree said,
“Even though I am not in very good health, I didn’t find it stressful
looking after my late father because I have a helper”.
“I retired to spend time with my husband. He is on wheelchair
and I take him out for lunch and walk around every day. The helper
does the chores for me and cooks’ dinner. This is how we have
couple time. I spend time with my husband while the helper does
the housework in place of me. I think that this is what I would
like to do for him as a wife. He told me that we should spend time
together before it is too late, and I agreed”.
While caregiving can be stressful, we learned from the
responses of the participants that caregiver stress could be
cushioned if there were sufficient resources and if it gave the
caregiver a sense of meaningful purpose.
 defined psychological stress as “a reaction” to the
environment, when faced with
a. the threat of a net loss of resources,
b. the net loss of resources,
c. a lack of resource gain following the investment of
“Conservation of resource theory stated that individuals strove
to maintain and protect valued resources, and that stress resulted
from the (perceived or actual) loss or threat of loss of resources,
impacting individual and work-related outcomes” [10,11].
Caregiving can be seen as an actual or perceived threat to resources
if individuals have to compromise work commitment (i.e. change
from working full-time to working part-time and compromise
on their career progression) or even stop work. The demands of
caregiving affect the ability of individuals to maintain and build
resource reserves. This results in stress on the individuals if they
have to continue struggling to manage the demands of work and
family or if they experience cumulative disadvantage as a result of
giving up their jobs to provide caregiving .
In comparison, the demands and resources approach to role
conflict  offers another perspective as it suggested that the
appraisal of work-life can be positive or negative, depending on
how individuals view the resources available to them to meet
the demands of certain roles. For example, if individuals have the
resources to meet the demands of caregiving and work, then this
may be associated with more positive outcomes. This findings from
this study supported Voydanoff’s findings that having sufficient
resources will help participants who were involved in caregiving
to cope with the demands of caregiving and consequently reduced
their stress. All four participants had engaged foreign domestic
helpers to assist them, so they were able to balance caregiving
commitments with personal time and personal pursuits.
A 69-year old male retiree said
“I don’t have a helper, but we rotate the caregiving of our
mother amongst the siblings. She stays with each of us for one
month, so that’s how we help each other out as a family. We are all
doing our part to look after our mother. We get breaks because we
are using this rotation system” In addition, this study found that
the individual’s willingness to provide caregiving for their loved
ones helped them accept the caregiver role and demands better
as they had chosen to do so on a voluntary basis.
A 66-year old female retiree said
“I have never regretted retiring to spend time with my late
mother. I have been busy working but in the last two years of her
life, I did my part to make time for her and to look after her. I find
it very meaningful”.
In contrast, two other participants who did not retire
primarily to look after their loved ones, found retirement life to be
more stressful and dissatisfying because of the caregiving demand
imposed on them. These two participants did not have the help of
a foreign domestic helper.
A 70-year old male retiree said
“I am not quite happy with my retirement because I can’t quite
do what I want or what I like. I am willing to help out in caregiving
but the fact that my wife doesn’t want to employ a helper, has made
it a lot more stressful for the family. She is worried that the helper
will not take good care of our daughter (who is intellectually
disabled) if we are not at home, so she expects me to be fully
hands on when she is not around. We take turns to travel and
cannot travel together because either of us must be home to look
after our daughter. Sometimes the holidays are long and either of
have to look after our daughter for a stretch of many days. I have
to do everything, including bathing my daughter when my wife is
A 60-year old male retiree said
“I know that it has been tough on my wife because she has been
the main caregiver for our daughter (who has epilepsy) during
my work years. I have since been retrenched and helping my
wife out with the caregiving. It will be less stressful with a helper,
but financially we can’t quite afford it. We are trying to conserve
our savings. My wife hasn’t been working and I was retrenched.
I haven’t been able to find a job, so we try to save as much as we
can. Friendships Participants had an average of three to five close
friends who genuinely cared about them. In general, participants
agreed that close friends were those whom they could turn to for
help and have the assurance that these close friends would do
their best to help. Participants maintained contact with their close
friends mainly through meetups and WhatsApp.
A 61-year old female retiree said
“About once every three to four months. Difficult to meet
because some are busy with grandparenting and some are busy
with their own activities. But we whatsapp almost every day and
also travel together. We have been travelling together for about
once a year for the past three years”. Participants were not inclined
to use social media to communicate with close friends. Meeting up
with close friends could vary from more than once a week or once
everyone to three months. However, Whatsapp communications
were almost daily or at least once every few days. A 63-year old
female retiree said “Very regular. I see my close friend in church
every week”, and a 66-year old female retiree said “Oh, we meet
almost every day. We attend the morning exercise group together
then we go marketing together or have breakfast together”.
A 63-year old male retiree who has a systematic approach
in maintaining friendships said: “I meet about one close friend
every week. Like a rotation. I have a few close friends so after
a few weeks of meeting one friend per week, it is back to the
same person again”. As participants had different definitions
or standards of emotional support and practical support (e.g.
monetary support), two scenarios were given to participants to
control for the differences. In the first scenario, participants were
asked if there was at least one friend whom they could contact if
they were very troubled and very depressed and needed to speak
to someone at 2am, without fear of getting scolded.
At least twenty participants felt that they could not accurately
answer this question as they had never put their friendships to
the test. When probed further, participants eventually either
answered affirmatively that their close friend would not scold
them if they were to do so, because it must have been a dire
situation to warrant that phone call, or participants gave the
response of “I am not sure” because they were truly uncertain if
their close friend would offer support at that timing. A 60-year
old female retiree said, “No. For my generation, we don’t disturb
people at that hour, no matter how sad we are”.
The importance of social connectedness to health and wellbeing
in old age is established in research [14-18]. Research
also emphasized the importance of promoting volunteerism and
social connectedness. In the earlier discussion on the reasons
behind retirement and how participants re-prioritized their postretirement
goals, we observed that participants prioritized health
and personal well-being and social connectedness in retirement
years. Good health is necessary to enjoy activities in retirement.
From the vignette responses, the need for social interactions
emerged strongly. Participants gave a less satisfactory rating for
characters who were healthy but lacking in social interactions and
familial closeness. Through the interviews, this study observed
how retirees had attempted to build their lives by shifting their
focus on self and relationships. The underlying resource that
participants derived from relationships was socio-emotional
support. Regardless of their retirement transition type, this
study found that participants who have successfully adjusted to
retirement were those who had found a new sense of meaning and
focus on familial relations and social connectedness.
Vignettes were used with precaution because this study
noted that participants had to imagine scenarios that they did not
experience in real life. There was a risk of inaccurately measuring
complex values if the responses were stimulated based on what
participants assumed, and not based on actual behavior .
To limit the risk of inaccurate measurements, vignettes were
not used as the main qualitative analysis in this study, but as a
complimentary tool to validate the interview responses [20,21].
Vignette analysis is a relatively less preferred technique
than the use of questionnaire, interviews and experiments in
research. One concern is that respondents might be confronted
with unrealistic scenarios due to unusual combinations of factors.
Another reason is that vignettes may stimulate judgements that
are specific to the hypothetical context or investigate behavioral
intentions rather than realistic judgements and real behavior .
This study had found the vignettes and interview convergence
method to be effective in illuminating the values of retirees and
in elucidating underlying views behind these values. The method
had also allowed the researcher to and to probe and tease out the
priorities accorded to the various values. While this method was
found to be effective in validating the interview responses, further
research is needed to assess the reliability of this method and to
test the effectiveness of using vignettes in supplementing other
research methods. As this study had only discussed on the selfperceived
values of retirees, it is recommended that qualitative
data collected from the vignettes and interviews be triangulated
with quantitative data collection methods to measure the
association between actual resources and retirees’ life satisfaction.