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Live longer and healthily in your retirement

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Sometimes it turns out to be one of life’s cruellest ironies. All those years at work you have been looking forward to the day you can put your feet up and enjoy retirement – then the day finally comes, and steadily failing health puts paid to all the dreams and plans you’d once hatched.

As the State Pension age increases for both men and women, the problem is likely to get worse. The charity Age UK, for example, issued a recent reminder that it goes up to 66 by October 2020 and up again to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

Age-related ill health

Indeed, the Express newspaper on the 6th of July 2018 revealed the results of an international study involving ten developed countries in which those retiring at the age of 65 enjoyed only around 5 years’ of healthy living until age-related illnesses began to take their toll.

In countries such as Germany and Holland – which enjoy some of the highest longevity rates – a third of the population is expected to be over 65 years of age by the year 2030 and live until they are an average 85 years old. But they are likely to be healthy for only 8 of those years.

Though you might get to live longer, with more years in retirement, therefore, the challenge is ensuring that you enjoy those years in as good health as you can manage.

How many years of healthy life might you enjoy?

As the website The Conversation puts it, it is not only a question of how many years of retirement you are likely to enjoy but how many of those years are likely to see you in good health. The website offers what it describes as a “healthy life expectancy” calculator – a tool that predicts how many years of healthy life you have before falling prey to sufficiently severe ill-health that continues until your death.

If you want to enjoy a retirement in which you not only live longer but also healthily, therefore, are there ways in which you might increase your healthy life expectancy?

The following represents a round-up of suggested activities that might help you achieve just that. By no means all of them have an immediate or apparent medical relevance – health matters in more ways than you might have imagined.

NHS health check

  • the check-up is designed to provide an early warning of many of the illnesses and conditions associated with older age – such as heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and dementia;
  • if you are in the relevant age-group, you should receive an invitation for the check-up every five years – but if you have not received one, ask your GP;

Physical activity

  • the British Heart Foundation recommends that everyone should aim to take around 150 minutes of moderately stressful physical activity each week;
  • whatever your state of health, sitting around at home doing nothing all day is likely to see your condition deteriorate – make an effort to get outside every day, even if you are in a wheelchair;

Mental well-being

  • but many studies are suggesting that by staying mentally alert and engaged is one of the best ways of warding off loneliness and the depression that may accompany it;
  • strive to maintain a circle of friends, engage in the community – perhaps by taking on voluntary work – develop your hobbies, learn a musical instrument or language, or study for a qualification;

Setting goals

  • one of the features of your working life was the importance of getting a range of things done;
  • to ease the transition into retirement, therefore, consider setting yourself some goals to achieve;
  • by writing a list of those goals “to do” you might establish a routine, plan the way you are spending your time, and accomplish the similar sense of achievement you experienced at work when you tick items off the list;

“Me time”

  • although goal setting might be necessary, remember that you have earned your retirement from work;
  • now it is “me time” – the opportunity to indulge in more of the things you positively enjoy doing, whether that is in the smaller things such as trips to the cinema and theatre, outings to local sites of interest, pampering yourself at a health spa or meals out or, more significant projects such as extensive travel and/or a round-the-world cruise.

New chapter, new experiences

Retirement represents a whole new chapter in your life and one in which you have the time and opportunity to enjoy new experiences, so avoid getting stuck in a rut by taking on changes – both small and more challenging – to enjoy refreshingly new experiences.

Of course, you want your retirement to be as long, happy and as satisfying as possible. The foundation for enjoying all of these challenges lies in you also staying mentally and physically fit and healthy for as long as possible.

Any data referred to in this article is correct as at the time of writing.


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