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Retirement and disability

In our ageing population, 1 in 7 Australians are aged 65 years and over (Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing, 2018). Attitudes about retirement can fluctuate, and can impact on an individual’s sense of wellbeing (Moen, 1996; Reitzes & Mutran, 2004). Older people with disability are also leaving the workforce prematurely or are facing the prospect of early retirement (AIHW, 2018). The number and proportion of people aged 65 and over receiving the Disability Support Pension has increased over the past 15 years (AIHW, 2020). 

Retirement of older people with disability can be very stressful, particularly those who rely on routine and require additional time and planning support. People living with disabilities may have less educational, employment and financial opportunities to plan for retirement, and there are limited sufficient resources to support. It can be hard for people living with disability to remain actively engaged in retirement (Bigby et al., 2011; McDermott et al., 2010).  

Choosing to retire

Retirement programs enable people with disability to successfully retire, and support mainstream community services to better accommodate people with disability (McDermott et al., 2010; Stancliffe, Bigby, Balandin, & Wilson, 2013). Person-centred specialist disability services should be involved to assist working older people to transition successfully into retirement (McDermott, Ewards, Abello, & Katz,2010).

When considering retirement, there are some questions you need to ask, document and prepare: 

  • When do I want to retire? What year, how old will I be? 
  • How much money will I need?  
  • How and when can I access my super?  
  • What are my other income options? Disability pensions in Australia are available here  
  • If you are the carer or a perosn with a disability, have I thought about advocacy, guardianship and decision-making for the person I care about and for myself?  

During retirement

Retirement is recognised as a significant life event which impacts on an individual’s routines, roles and relationships and affects how retiree’s view themselves and their status within society (Moen, 1996; Reitzes & Mutran, 2004; Steffens, Cruwys, Haslam, Jetten, & Haslam, 2016). The experience of a successful retirement suggests that people need the opportunity to engage in retirement activities which they value and find meaningful.  


  • Have a positive attitude and being adaptable 
  • Experience security and stability in terms of one’s living environment 
  • Access finances and social supports 
  • Maintain good health and wellbeing 
  • Engage in stimulating and meaningful activities.  

Where to get support  

  • Services Australia provides financial help and other services if you care for someone with a disability, an illness or who is frail aged.  
  • Seek independent advice for a financial adviser and/or a legal professional to plan for the future. It is important to consider Power(s) of Attorney and Advanced Care Directives. 
  • The Public Trustee in your State or Territory offers a free Will-making service  
  • The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has information about retirement planning  
  • MoneySmart has information and tools to plan for your retirement.  
  • Your superannuation and/or life insurance company  

Activity Ideas 

  • Practicing memory strategies 
  • Using a computer, digital devices or assistive technology
  • Advancing matters in your own life  
  • Exercising and enjoying the outdoors 
  • Taking care of your appearance 
  • DIY and crafting (Artistic hobbies, arts & crafts)  
  • Making your home cosy and pleasant 
  • Helping others and maintaining friendships/getting to know new people 
  • Social participation in events  
  • Reading, crosswords, music 
  • Low impact activities (e.g. walking, swimming, etc.) 


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018, Older Australia at a glance, AIHW, Department of Health, Canberra.   

Jones A, Katz I, Gluntall G, Bates S & Johnson K 2016, Quality of life after retirement from Australian Disability Enterprises, Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Australia, Sydney.  

Reitzes, DC & Mutran EJ 2004, ‘The Transition to Retirement: Stages and Factors That Influence Retirement Adjustment’, The International Journal of Ageing and Human Development, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 63-84. 

Wilson NJ, Stancliffe RJ, Bigby C, Balandin S & Craig D 2010, ‘The potential for active mentoring to support the transition into retirement for older adults with a lifelong disability’, Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability’, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 211-214.