Research on retirees’ engagement in informal caregiving, formal volunteering, and grandparenting often views retirement as a permanent exit from the workforce. Retirement processes are, however, increasingly diverse: some retire fully while others remain in paid work after retirement from a career job. A relevant but understudied question is how these different retirement processes relate to changes in engagement in unpaid productive activities. Building on role theory, we hypothesize that full and working retirees face different consequences of retirement and, therefore, differ in engagement in unpaid productive activities.
We analyze data that were collected in 2015 and 2018 among 4,882 Dutch individuals aged 60–65 and employed at baseline. Around half had fully retired at follow-up and 10% worked after their retirement. At follow-up, more respondents are regularly volunteering (from 17% to 27%) and grandparenting (from 39% to 53%) than at baseline, while caregiving remains rather stable (from 33% to 30%).
Conditional change models show that full retirement is associated with an increased likelihood of volunteering and grandparenting, but not caregiving. Engagement in postretirement work is related to an increased likelihood of looking after the grandchildren, but not to volunteering or providing informal care.
Our findings suggest that volunteering is important for replacing weak ties after full retirement, while grandparenting might be a new, central role in retirement—irrespective of work engagement. Retirees seem to engage in unpaid productive activities for different reasons.