Ageing is not for sissies! Wrinkles. Hormones out of whack. Energy levels decrease. And so the list goes on…. The reality is that people are living longer than ever before. There is a great possibility that you could live for one-third of your life in retirement.
- Retirement is construed as Utopia – the Promised Land. In reality, new retirees often feel down, lonely, have a sense of loss. When the honeymoon period is over, there is often a period of let-down with loneliness, boredom, regret, uselessness and disillusionment setting in. 40% of retirees suffer from depression.
- Rising healthcare expenses in retirement are becoming a huge issue.
- One is more susceptible to various conditions and disease as you age.
- The impact of longevity poses a fundamental challenge to financial institutions and public benefits. Longevity has a knock-on effect on long-term savings. With people living longer and outliving their retirement savings, this in turn has a hugely negative effect on individuals, families, their communities and even ultimately on governments and the world.
- Work creates a sense of belonging and self-worth. Work means having on-tap friendships. For 40 years, you have been a somebody. You retire, and there is nothing. Your title which once carried significance, evaporates when you retire. Men, in particular, battle with this. Many of their friends and acquaintances are very likely tied to the workplace and work functions. No work, no friends. Your social network has gone. One feels bereft when one loses one’s identity. It also feels like a divorce. This sense of loss can chip away at your self-esteem – leading to depression, even if you are a person who has not previously suffered from depression.
I have recently been told the story of a gentleman, who retired to Hermanus-by-the-sea after passing on the family business. This gentleman was having coffee with a former business associate one morning and he remarked: “You know what they didn’t tell us about retirement? It’s lonely.”
Ask a new retiree how they are doing. Do you think they would respond “I am feeling so lonely and no-one gives a continental”.
All of a sudden, retirement takes on a new look. Not quite the Utopia we thought.
How can we deal with these health challenges?
Plan, plan and plan some more..
If you keep yourself as healthy as possible in mind, body and soul for as long as you can, you can deflect some of the health challenges. When you are planning for retirement, incorporate as many of the suggested activities as possible. Research shows that if you start an activity pre-retirement, you are more likely to keep that activity going in retirement.
If you’re nearing retirement, make sure that one of the most important and expensive aspects of retirement —your future health-care needs—is not overlooked.
- Make an appointment with your Medical Aid Consultant to ensure that you are adequately covered for conditions related to ageing, e.g. heart attack, stroke, cancer, Alzheimers. Discuss with your Consultant whether you need to consider medical gap cover.
- If you are in a position where you need to attend your local government clinic or hospital, find out the system works when you are feeling well. Don’t leave this until such time as you feel unwell.
Understand the changes that come with ageing
Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a slew of medical conditions or poor quality of life. Ageing means change, both negative and positive. Take the time to understand what goes on with your body as you age, and take the necessary steps to maintain your health. Don’t let the changes that can come with ageing catch you by surprise.
Evaluate your physical, mental and spiritual needs
- Be or become physically active for at least 2 ½ hours a week. This means the body needs 30-60 minutes of physical activity most days. Minutes count so add it all up. For example parking further away and walking briskly for 10 minutes to your destination. There 10 minutes and back 10 minutes, you already have 20 minutes!
- Eat a healthy, well balanced diet – full of fibre, low-fat and low-cholesterol. Say cheers to the junk food. Limit alcohol consumption, but don’t forget that a glass of red wine is good for your heart. Raise your glass to the health benefits of vino!
- Schedule regular check ups with your doctor, dentist and optometrist. Don’t forget those regular mammograms and prostate checks.
- Exercise your mind by continued, personal learning. Do mind workouts such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, learn a language, count matches, do multiplication in your mind, take up writing and maths, and play video games with your spouse, friend or grandchildren.
Best of all, using the internet has a double-whammy health benefit – according to a study done by a University of California Los Angeles team, using the internet helps boost brain power by stimulating centres in the brain that controlled decision-making and complex reasoning. Researchers agree that this might even help to counteract the age-related physiological changes that cause the brain to slow down. This study features in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
In addition, research done at the Michigan State University reveals that seniors who use the internet regularly reduce their chances of depression by more than 30%. It all has to do with older people being able to communicate, to stay in contact with their family abroad, with their social networks, and just not feel lonely.
- Stay socially connected with friends and family and within your community. Not only does interaction with peers lead to a sharper mind, but it gives you a sense of belonging and keeps you connected to the world around you. Find a sense of purpose. Get involved in volunteer work, find a part-time job, join a book club, a garden club or a golf group. Take a class and interact with others. Join a gym. Become more involved with your place of worship.
- There are support groups for divorce and grief, but not for new retirees who are left alone to sort out their sense of separation. If there is not already a support group within your community, consider starting one up for new retirees. Advertise the support group on your local Facebook community page. You might even make some new, special friends.
What are the benefits of keeping healthy as you age
So given all of the above, doesn’t keeping healthy make complete and utter sense? If the chances are that you will reach the age of 90plus, doesn’t it make complete sense that you need to choose a healthy lifestyle? It’s never too late to reap the benefits of healthy living. Healthy living is the key to a happy retirement.
- People in good health have lower health care costs, so they have less of a drain on their resources.
- People who are fit in middle age battle fewer chronic ailments in the last five years of life, so they get to enjoy more of their retirement being active and feeling good.
- You improve your quality of life
- You enjoy a more active and pleasure-filled retirement
- Adopting a positive outlook – if you have an optimistic look on life and on the ageing process, you will more than likely spend your retirement years doing meaningful activities which means you will be happier and enjoy a better quality of life.
- Identifying any stress areas and taking steps to alleviate the stress