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3 ideas for relevance in retirement

If you’ve heard the term “relevance deprivation” you may be older and possibly retired. Alternatively, you may be between jobs or a parent who has become an “empty nester”.  Regardless of your situation, remaining relevant is an individual responsibility.  And it can be challenging.

I’ve written before about my dislike of the word ‘retirement’. One of the many reasons for my preference to avoid the word is because it signals an endpoint. A time in our life when we’ll stop all the hard work and move to a life of leisure filled with choice. Our choice. Our way. No boss. Bliss!

What if …

We didn’t retire.  What if, instead of retiring we simply kept on living. Fully. Completely. Engaged.

Not thinking “I’m old” because old is equated with retirement.

What if, from a much younger age, we made choices and decisions knowing that life was long. Very long. Knowing that if we retire at 65 we’ll still live for 20 or more years.

What choices would we make? How differently would we live our life?

There’s work.  Then there’s retirement.

When working we remain relevant because we have purpose and meaning. There’s a reason to get up each day. At work people want us because of our knowledge, skill, or experience. We receive phone calls, emails, and invitations. Invitations to lunch. To Melbourne Cup events. To Christmas functions. Our birthday might be celebrated in the office with a cake. People notice when we’re away for an extended time and are usually grateful for our return. We’re valued. And all we have to do is show up to our workplace. Easy.

In retirement, this can all disappear. There is no office. The phone calls, emails, and invitations diminish. Whether or not we get up each day may not be noticed – by anyone.  Unless we’re in a relationship or we have adult children living with us. What happens in our day must be generated entirely by us. It requires energy, effort, and self-motivation. Less easy.

In a youth- focused culture, relevancy can feel even more challenging. Combined with an increasingly technology, digital driven world, becoming and remaining digital-savvy may also seem overwhelming.

Given this challenge, what are the options?

3 ideas for retirement relevance

In a recent podcast interview with SBS, I suggested that it was essential we all continue to learn and educate ourselves to remain relevant. Whilst the podcast was particularly focused on the disparities between millenials and older workers, those interviewed provided practical actions for reducing the gap. As I’ve said before, generational labelling was also suggested as divisive and not overly useful as a way of identifying groups of people.

Bridging a generational gap requires understanding and a willingness for both younger and older people to learn from each other. An openness and recognition that there is more than one way to do anything. And that attachment to “our way” or the “right way” limits the possibility for new ideas, innovation, and creativity.

Intergenerational relationships are crucial for us to age well. Consequently, building them into our lives is essential.

The 3 ideas?

  1. Continue learning. Whether that be through Open University, U3A, TAFE, University, free online MOOC’s, or by attending events at your local library. Foster a thirst for knowledge.
  2. Participate in community activities or hobbies where you’ll also meet and befriend younger people. Community gardens, bush regeneration, environmental or animal activist groups, book or film clubs. If there’s not one in your neighbourhood, create one.
  3. Be open. Say “yes”.

For inspiration on how to age we have role models in Judy Dench and Jane Goodall. One thing’s for sure. To remain relevant in retirement requires us to reject age stereotypes and embrace our whole life – from start to finish.

 

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

 

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Do this ONE thing for a longer, healthier life

Longer, healthier lives already exist. However, we don’t necessarily all age well with few pains and no concern about our physical or mental wellbeing.  In fact, physical and cognitive decline are a significant worry for many as I wrote about here.

Now, we could wait for the miracle anti-ageing pill being researched and tested by Dr David Sinclair at Harvard University, however, it’s ten or more years away. And whilst billionaires such as Paul Allen and Sergey Brin co-founders of Microsoft and Google respectively, invest millions in anti-ageing research, there’s nothing available that will make a difference to our lives today.

Our lives are longer today than at any other time in history thanks to progress in medicine and healthcare. Although some seek to defy the natural physical processes of ageing with Botox, plastic surgery, or beauty products, others simply aspire to age well. The idea of occupying our bodies into decline via a nursing home to death appeals to … well, no one actually.

However, there is one thing that we can all do today that makes a significant difference to how we age.

That one thing?

Weight-bearing exercise.

The benefits

Of course some exercise is better than none. However, research undertaken by exercise physiologist Dr Tim Henwood with older adults, including one study that involved residents of an aged care facility with an average age of 86 years old, found that there were numerous advantages associated with a tailored weight bearing exercise program.

Benefits revealed in Dr Henwood’s research included:

  1. Improvement in overall health and wellbeing;
  2. Enhanced sleep;
  3. Reduced symptoms of disease associated with physical and/or mental decline;
  4. Better bone density;
  5. Reduced falls; and,
  6. Greater general strength and ability to be independent.

With falls a leading cause of injury for those aged over 65 years, it’s worthwhile considering what activities can reduce the likelihood of these occurring. Weight-bearing exercise is one proven way to make a difference and have an impact on falls prevention.

However, there’s another advantage. Social relationships and connection.

Bonus of weight-bearing exercise

Loneliness is a significant issue for people as they age and is now being equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. By undertaking a weight bearing exercise program with an exercise physiologist or suitably qualified personal trainer at a gym or facility that knows and understands older bodies, a person is able to informally meet and connect with others.

Another advantage of a gym is the opportunity to meet and speak with people of all ages. To build relationships inter-generationally.

3 tips for selecting a trainer and gym

When embarking on a new weight-bearing exercise program there are 3 essential factors to consider:

1.What qualifications do the exercise physiologists (EP) or personal trainers (PT) have to train older people? Ask.

Whilst working with a young, enthusiastic, optimistic young, good looking man/woman might appeal, if they don’t have the right training they could cause minor injuries such as strains or pains that are inconvenient and mean you can’t exercise at all for a period of time. This type of experience could also reduce your interest or desire to continue.

2. Who does the EP or PT currently work with who is older? Ask for references and speak to some existing clients.

3. What initial testing do they do to design the program? Is it free or does it cost money? How much?

4. How do they manage, monitor, and develop your program? If finances are a consideration, you could ask for a new program once a month. In between sessions you could work independently either at the gym or at home.

In the early stages you may not be lifting the types of weights these ladies seem to do with relative ease. Sometimes specific exercises utilise our own body weight and that’s challenging enough. Over time, who knows? We might become a weight-lifting champion.

In the meantime, it’s just about starting.

Make an enquiry.

Speak to friends.

Go to a gym.

Make it a social occasion and a regular part of the week. It really is one of the best things we can do to enable us to age well.

Note: If in doubt, seek medical advice prior to undertaking physical activity if you have health issues or any concerns about your ability to do this type of exercise

Image credit: Photo by Parvana Praveen on Unsplash

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What if we acknowledged people older than us in our own culture

Does the Australian culture respect older people? 5 questions worth asking.

I love the welcome usually given prior to a conference, school occasion, or other event in Australia. We’re asked to do two things: acknowledge the traditional landowners as the custodians of this land AND pay respect to Elders past and present. But, has this practice spilled over into a cultural tendency to respect all Elders regardless of our heritage? Read more

Forget Generation X, Y, Z, and Baby Boomers

Generational labels that divide.

Population divisions based on the year we are born.

What if we removed the labels and simply met each other as people, with a variety of wants, needs and challenges that span age?

What would happen to the smashed avocado debate then?

Read more

Shades of white

White is white.

Until you try to choose white paint.

If you’ve ever tried to choose white paint you’ll know just how tricky it is to choose the shade of white you’d like to paint a room or a house.

Ageing is the same.  Here’s why.

Read more

What’s your Plan B?

In a perfect world I’d like to remain at home until the end of my life. Wanting this is one thing. Creating the environment in which this is possible is another. Can I really stay at home to the end? Planning is crucial.

Read more

Retirement living. Doing it differently.

Inspired by a program on housing for the older population that appeared on an SBS Insight program, I contacted two of the participants who had talked about the retirement community they had created with four other long term friends. It’s a remarkable story.

Read more

4 personal lessons about ageing

The creeks had burst their banks, the only road out was flooded with water hurtling past at over 1metre high and powerful enough to sweep any vehicle downstream along with trees and all manner of debris that was loose and vulnerable to such strength and intensity. There’s no landline, no mobile, no Internet and I’m by myself.  Whilst I’m happily ensconced in the warmth of our shed with a fire constantly burning I’m acutely aware of my isolation. Combined with my forced isolation and the company of Martin Seligman and Gloria Steinem, here’s the four things I discovered about me and ageing …

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I’ve had a reality check. Here it is …

I’m getting older. I know that. I’ve said for a long time that I plan to see 100 and beyond. And, I’m determined to age well. Age healthily. Age happily. Age productively. In community with like-minded people. I eschew the idea of a retirement village or nursing home. That’s not for me. I don’t do bingo. Have no interest in bingo. And group excursions or group events? I’ve never been a good groupie which is probably one of the reasons I won’t do cruises. I don’t like the idea of being told when to eat, what to eat or where to eat. However, there’s a ‘but’. Here it is …

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6 factors to consider so you can stay at home as you age

Whilst some of us are happy to move to a retirement village when we’re older it’s not for everyone.  I’m probably in this latter group.  However, a danger of remaining at home is loneliness and isolation and potentially poorer health.  Keep reading to learn what we need to consider to remain healthy and happy if we want to remain at home.

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