We are constantly bombarded with negative messages relating to the ageing process. Whether it’s the crisis in social care funding, the increasing rates of dementia diagnosis, the prevalence of loneliness or the generic health issues which typically come with growing older. A quick look at the language associated with ageing compounds the doom and gloom: ‘past it’; ‘decrepit’; ‘geriatric’; ‘over the hill’… but, hang on. Isn’t the hard bit getting up the hill? Once you are over the hill you are into freewheeling territory – wind in your hair! Feet off the pedal! Adrenaline racing!
So shouldn’t this be the way we view our post-retirement golden years even if there are aches and pains, moments of confusion and health worries along the way?
A positive view of ageing should emphasise that later life is a time for active citizenship. Contributing, participating and volunteering in your local community for the wider benefit. It is a time for engaging in activities which benefit your physical and mental health. A time for fully embracing family, friends, neighbours and the wider community.
What can be done to make the most of your “golden” years?
Ageing really doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, there are many ways people can prepare for the future. As a result they can reduce the stress of getting older and enjoy later life.
In 2014 an alliance of leading, age focused, organisations produced a manifesto: “Getting Ready for Ageing”. Unfortunately the recommendations in this have received little attention from those who hold the purse strings. It does contain a very useful guide on how we can individually increase our enjoyment of later life. The following is an extract from the manifesto:
Keeping physically active is one of the most important things we can do to ensure a healthy old age.
Learn to ride a bike or get out to the park. Not everyone can do a marathon, but most of us should keep fitter than we do.
Save for your old age:
Yes, you will get a state pension. But for most people, it is unlikely to provide the sort of income you are used to. Saving is important at any age but the younger we start, the greater we benefit from investment returns and compound interest.
Pay off your debts:
Having debt can be a major barrier to preparing for ageing. Get advice from a charity such as Age UK or Stepchange and start planning for the future.
If you smoke, stop or cut down:
Smoking reduces our life expectancy and can make it more likely that we suffer poor health or need care in old age. You are never too young or old to stop.
Eat a healthy balanced diet, drink enough water, and not too much alcohol. Be mentally active. Keep yourself informed about how you can prevent ill health and ask your GP if you need any adult vaccinations.
Keep your friends and make new ones:
Isolation and loneliness in old age hits far too many people. Maintain friendships and build new networks across the life-course and into later life. Also build relationships in your community, not just where you work.
Adapt your home:
As we age, we want and need different things from our housing. Our homes may have become too big or may no longer suit our needs. If this is how it is for you, think about moving home or upgrading your home’s energy efficiency.
Keep up to date with the kids:
The world is changing around us. Keep your mind active and engaged, from new digital technology through to new attitudes. Make sure you aren’t missing out and take every opportunity to talk to younger people. Try to get yourself online. Listen to One Direction (at least once).
Talk about ageing:
Ageing should be seen as a positive experience. Too few of us talk about ageing as anything but a passing joke.
See retirement positively:
A time of change, perhaps of getting out more, taking more exercise, eating better and making new friends. A time to have fun.
Too few of us plan for the future as we don’t expect to suffer ill health, bereavement or a job loss. However thinking about how we respond to these challenges can make for a better future. If we are to have longer working lives, it is unlikely that many of us will stay in the same job for a long time. We need to accept our careers may change and continually invest in careers advice and retraining. In addition, don’t be afraid of thinking about your own death, however far off it may be. Ensure you have written a Will and consider a Power of Attorney.
The final tip could be paraphrased as ‘putting your affairs in order’. This can be a very loaded sentiment with overtures of imminent demise. In fact there is nothing negative about ensuring your wishes are met in the event that you can no longer make your own decisions due to loss of mental capacity or death. By obtaining good legal advice your wishes can, in due course, be implemented and in the meantime you can simply file the relevant documents away safely and get on with the rest of your life.
So to conclude with a couple of sage, inspirational fridge door quotes about ageing:
“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” (Abraham Lincoln)
Growing older is inevitable, but the alternative is far worse.
What’s next for your positive ageing plans?
If you are in any doubt about how to plan for your future, speak to your solicitor. They can help you ensure that your property, financial affairs and any other assets are distributed as you expected when the time comes. They can also make sure you receive the right care and your wishes are met later in life.
For more information on positive ageing and planning for your future, please contact our Elderly, Care & Mental Capacity team on 0161 475 7676.