Risk, resilience, and life-course fit: Older couples’ encores following job loss

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Abstract A long tradition of research shows job loss to be socially toxic to the health and well-being of individuals and families. In today's economy, seniority no longer means job security, as lay-offs of older workers from their career jobs are increasingly common, but often unexpected by those forced out of work. Older dual-earner couples are in double jeopardy of job lay-offs. What contributes to the resilience of women and men in their fifties and sixties confronting the crisis of job loss, as individuals and as couples? With years of adulthood before them, what ‘encores’ do they seek? We build on a combined ecology of the life-course and stress process framework to theorize four strategic adaptations of older working couples confronting displacement from one or both partners’ jobs, drawing on qualitative data to illustrate how they promote resilient life-course fit: (a) changing the situation, (b) redefining the situation, (c) altering relationships, and (d) managing rising strains and tensions. We theorize and find three key resources conducive to and reinforced by a resilient encore of fit: control or mastery over one’s life, social connections and support (within the couple but also with others in one’s social network), and making a meaningful contribution (through paid work, civic engagement, or family work). Introduction A number of demographic trends – including delays in the labor force participation of younger workers, the aging of the large baby-boom cohort, changes in retirement and Social Security policies and programs – are encouraging longer labor force participation among older people, as well as new scholarly and policy interest in the growing proportion of older workers.

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New Frontiers in Resilient Aging: Life-Strengths and Well-Being in Late Life

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