We are all getting older – it is a fundamental fact in life. But the majority of us are totally unprepared for what awaits us
We are all getting older – it is a fundamental fact in life. But the majority of us are totally unprepared for what awaits us.
Yes, we may have pensions and follow the basics of a healthy lifestyle, but can you really say that you have thought deeply about all aspects of your later life?
The good news is that I am here to tell you that aging does not mean that everything goes downhill.
It can even be the start of a whole new adventure if you are prepared for a major reconsideration on how you can make your later years one of your happiest.
The story of aging has changed dramatically over the past decade, as life expectancy has risen at a fantastic pace year after year.
Advances in medical and public health, from sanitation to statins, continue to extend our lives, and yet society – and, indeed, we as individuals – has not caught up with that change.
Respected medical magazine The Lancet has, surprisingly, predicted that more than half of British babies born in 2007 will reach the age of 103.
The big question then is: are you prepared for those extra years? Most of us are not.
But none of us want to imagine losing our independence, trust, or ability to continue doing what we love.
The good news is that it's never too late to plan a fantastic later life.
The story about aging has changed dramatically in the last ten years, because life expectancy has increased at a fantastic pace year after year (file photo)
I have worked for years at the UK Center for Better Aging – where I am the Communications Director – to learn what people care about as they age.
And I believe that the secret is to best imagine and plan for your later life.
Start by figuring out which retirement line you belong to, what will help you work out how well you age. The image is displayed at the bottom of this page.
But don't panic if you're not satisfied with the result – I'm going to share my top tips with you to transform your later years – from maintaining good health, to financing retirement and even making your house future-proof …
Carry the shopping house and really dig the garden
Strength and balance quickly decrease after 40. You lose about ten percent of your muscle mass every decade after you turn 40.
In addition, around 70 percent of people over 70 have arthritis in at least a part of the body.
But did you know that it is possible to reverse part of this muscle loss? With simple exercises you can not only manage conditions such as arthritis, but also reduce your risk of falling and maintain your independence for longer.
You could play badminton or golf, or just carry the groceries home, do some heavy gardening or do it yourself – everything will help build muscle mass and bone strength (file photo)
If you can maintain your ability to grasp with your hands, get up out of a chair and support your body when you bathe and go to the toilet, you can remain independent all your life.
The Chief Medical Officer's advice is to do three things: 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking, per day; sit down less; and do two sessions of strength and balance exercises per week. These do not have to be in the gym.
You can play badminton or golf, or just go home shopping, do a lot of gardening or do it yourself – everything will help build muscle mass and bone strength.
Go up the stairs 20 times a day; even standing on one leg while brushing your teeth has an effect if you do it every day. Make sure you wear the right footwear.
Slippers can encourage a "shuffle" and increase the risk of falling. Instead, choose something with a supported bow and straps or laces to hold your feet securely in place. A comfortable pair of trainers can be a good alternative.
Does your house fit the 20-minute rule?
How safe does your environment feel? Think about how easy it is to move around, and how connected you feel to others – all these things are crucial to your future health and happiness.
Maybe you want to be able to easily visit friends, family and grandchildren, go to the allotment garden, yoga club or pub, or reach the airport for those traveling to Miami.
Consider the "20 minutes" rule – where do you reach walking, driving or public transport within 20 minutes?
A few services – such as a shop for basic necessities such as milk and bread – a few minutes' walk from your home would be a bonus, with a more substantial main street 20 minutes away.
How safe does your environment feel? Think about how easy it is to move around, and how connected you feel to others – all these things are crucial to your future health and happiness (file photo)
Plan what could happen if you are unable or unwilling to drive and you have to rely on public transport. What about cycling? Continue now and there is no reason to ever stop.
Also think about it in your home and make future-proof decisions to prevent stress and unrest later.
For example, you want a house on a single level instead of a staircase. On the other hand, remember that climbing stairs is great for strength and balance.
Or perhaps the changes you have to make are less radical – for example, a walk-in shower instead of a bath.
Or are too many of your cupboards tall and hard to reach? Is your garden difficult to access and difficult to maintain?
These are things you can do with planning and time to change now, instead of waiting for them to become a problem.
Talk to yourself … in Swahili
There is a common myth that a daily sudoku can help keep dementia at bay. But while puzzles and crossword puzzles can help preserve memory, there is some debate as to whether they can stop the development of dementia in the long term.
Instead, it's great to learn a new skill or language. Did you know that you can increase your brain power and reverse the signs of aging if you can stick to exercising regularly?
Dr. Thomas Bak, a reader in human cognitive neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, explains: "You see an improvement in cognitive health even after a week of learning. We think this is due to the increasing synaptic density, possibly the amount of white matter and connections in the brain. The more you have, the healthier your brain will be. & # 39;
Dr. Bak suggests naming objects that you see in different languages. Do you see a squirrel in the garden? Try to give it a name in French, Spanish or even Swahili.
Although a lot of exercise – up to five hours a week – shows an amazing improvement in brain health, even small amounts help.
And recording something new will have a similar effect.
A study in which the health of the brains of one group who spent time watching movies or social contacts compared to another who learned digital photography or quilting, discovered that the group who learned those new skills had a better cognitive capacity.
But you have to keep doing it – so make sure it's fun.
If there is something bothering you, don't let it boil away beneath the surface. And finally, give your sex life more spirit. Remember, relationships are about quality, not quantity (file photo)
Does a relationship need an MoT?
It is clear to say to stay social by becoming a member of clubs or sports groups. But also make sure that you supplement the convoy of your friendships by replacing those who disappear – maintaining your existing relationships and building new ones.
Your convoy can and must consist of people of different ages, who mean different things to you. They can vary from neighbors with whom you often speak to your life partner.
Also be careful not to neglect the person closest to you. That is where an APK relationship comes.
Take the time with your partner to find things that you can do together and that you both enjoy, so you spend time doing something you meet.
But also make sure that you have external interests independent of each other – so you have many stories to tell each other (and you don't absolutely spend all your time together).
Also discuss how satisfied you are with your relationship. This can be difficult – don't forget to be sensitive and diplomatic.
If there is something bothering you, don't let it boil away beneath the surface. And finally, give your sex life more spirit.
Remember that relationships are about quality, not quantity.
So which pension line do you belong to?
Research has identified six different groups in the population over 50 in the UK.
Which are you or, perhaps more importantly, which do you want to be? There are things you can do to change your circumstances.
Planning ahead and taking action now to build up your health, financial security, and positive attitude toward aging means that you will have more control later when it comes to retirement or how you approach an illness.
Financially secure with a good pension and savings, healthy and fit, and with strong social ties with friends and family. Happy and positive and more inclined to enjoy cultural trips.
Mortgage-free and largely well-off, but pessimistic about the future and sad about & # 39; missed opportunities & # 39; in the past. In relatively good health, but do not always have sufficient resources to cover everything they want.
Can-do and connected
In general, poorer physical health, but with strong social relationships and more optimistic and practical. Few savings but very satisfied. Mainly widower women in their years & # 39; 70 and & # 39; 80.
Worried and disconnected
Especially over 70, retired and in poor health and anxious to become a burden. I am having trouble making contact with new people and do not trust existing friends or family.
Pressed in the middle
Still works but is under pressure, with multiple demands on time and money, often for parents and financially dependent children. Anxious, with little time for themselves and unable to save for retirement.
Struggling and alone
Often or always without money, living alone with few social connections. Can experience depression and accident. Some may be sick or disabled for many years and cannot save money for retirement.
Banish the dreaded spread of middle age
Two thirds of the population is overweight or obese. If since the age of 40 you have put on the extra stone and have to buy skirts or pants with elastic waistbands, you already know that you have to do something about it.
Carrying this excess weight is dangerous because it increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers and type 2 diabetes. So start by counting calories and consider taking a vitamin D supplement to also strengthen the bones.
Official guidelines suggest that men need 2500 calories a day, while women need 2000.
But Public Health England now recommends adhering to a total of 1,600 calories a day – 400 for breakfast, 600 for lunch and 600 for dinner.
If we have a negative attitude, deep aversion or even aversion to old age – what is called "internalized ageism" – this will affect our behavior as we get older. A negative attitude to aging can take seven years of your life, according to a study by academics at Yale University (file photo)
Also note the calories in alcohol. Middle-aged men between 45 and 64 drink an average of 37 units per week – the equivalent of 16 pints of beer – which is 2.5 times more than the safe recommended levels. However, small changes can make a big difference.
Doctors recommend at least two non-alcoholic days a week. But try to order fewer alcoholic beverages, choose half a pint instead of a full one and use smaller wine glasses at home to reduce the amount you consume.
Make sure there is money in the pot
Most people say they don't want to be rich in retirement – they just want to be able to pay the rent or mortgage, cover food and bills, and have extra money to pursue hobbies.
It is important that they want enough money for unexpected events and pay for care if necessary.
When the modern state pension was introduced in 1948, a 65-year-old could expect an average of 13.5 years before he died – 23 percent of his adult life.
In 2017, the average 65-year-old is expected to be 22.8 years old.
So don't underestimate what you need.
People think they need £ 124,000 in a pension pot in addition to a state pension for a pension income of £ 25,000 a year. In reality, you need around £ 315,000.
The best way to start planning is to think about what your expenses are and your expectations about what you plan to do during your retirement.
Most people find that the basic pension – even the full entitlement, currently £ 164.35 per week if you have paid national insurance premiums for 35 years – is not sufficient to cover essential costs, so you need private savings.
Don't be older, try a night club
If you think you can't travel all over the world, go to night clubs or learn a new skill because you are & # 39; too old & # 39; you will not do those very enjoyable, life-confirming things.
If we have a negative attitude, deep aversion or even aversion to old age – what is called "internalized ageism" – this will affect our behavior as we get older.
A negative attitude to aging can take seven years of your life, according to a study by academics at Yale University.
Instead, we must re-imagine how we see old age and think more positively to live longer.
Guy Robertson, at consultants Positive Aging Associates, says: "If you feel positive, you are more likely to behave in a positive and self-protective manner.
"Negative attitudes cause people to say," I'm 70 now, so I shouldn't bother the doctor about the pain in my back. It just becomes normal for someone my age. I will suffer in silence ".
& # 39; But the way we think about aging has a huge impact on how likely we are to get sick, how quickly we will recover from illness, how our memory performs and even our ability to do simple daily activities , such as from a chair. & # 39;
Guy recommends training the brain to think more positively. If you lose your wallet instead of looking at it as a disaster, don't blame yourself. Think: & # 39; I can cancel my bank cards and borrow ten pounds. It won't stop me from enjoying my weekend.
"It's about controlling and correcting a tendency to be our own worst enemy."
© Louise Ansari, 2019
When We’s 64: Your Guide to A Great Later Life, by Louise Ansari, is published by Green Tree and costs £ 12.99.
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