A retirement plan is a good idea – here’s eight steps which may help you

You’ve been active from childhood, perhaps superfit, but as a senior you probably need a change of plan. A rational retirement is on offer.

You don’t need anyone to tell you that you need to be active, to eat well and be sensible if you want a healthy life. It’s not only common sense but the messages have been fired at us with both barrels for eons.

But, as we progress from about age 30 and especially from age 60, we need to act from a different perspective.

It might seem trite, but a common expression heard at eateries, especially among seniors, is: “I can’t eat all this!”. Or “They’ve given me too many chips again!”. 

Seniors have a shrinking desire for food. We don’t need as much fuel. Yet, eateries continue to serve large-size meals and slabs of cakes that have grown in size over the years even though the population is ageing.

And, given the world’s high obesity rates, younger people could also adapt to more moderate meal and snack sizes.

We are swamped with dietary messages from government, medicos, dieticians and social groups but its effect is a drop in the proverbial bucket. I have yet to hear a simple message: “eat smaller meals.”

Seniors tend to follow lifelong habits: Solid-size meals three-times-a-day, coffee and cake on a whim, spending long hours watching the box and many of us engage in sports and activities as though we have bodies of 20 to 30-year-olds.

Turning our backs on approaching years comes at a high price to our health, sometimes serious. Aches, strains and pains come easily and heal painfully slowly.

Few seniors set out a plan to take into retirement. Yet, a slight change of direction will help improve the ageing experience.

In recent years, science and surveys have highlighted the importance of fundamentals, which have emerged from research into ageing, depression, dementia, anxiety, disabilities, sports injuries, broken relationships, lethargy, disinterest, boredom and sleep disruption.

Life’s fundamentals still hold true: being physically and mentally active, eating sensibly, having social connections and sleeping well.

Technology has made mighty advances. Computers, massing enormous amounts of feedback from surveys plus medical data, continue to spotlight the importance of these fundamentals.

Seniors may need to moderate their lives: eat less, tailor activities, challenge the brain, be more social and regularly have at least six hours unbroken sleep.

Getting motivated is usually the first and major hurdle. 

Who wants to join a bunch of other oldies or chase exercise outlets, change sleeping habits or change anything? Where to start?

8-Steps to Get Motivated

Acknowledge and accept your age.

You may be exercising too much or engaging in activities that will not endure as your body ages and, inevitably, weakens.

Find out what community activities are on offer.

Check councils, Have a Go News, social groups and organisations. Councils provide brochures aplenty in their offices, seniors’ centres and online. Look for sports, tours, lectures, computer use, classes and volunteering.

Draw-up a plan.

Simply walk out your door for 20-minute moderate march, turn around and march back. Make it a daily habit, change direction. If you go to a gym, join a monitored program for seniors.

Bike riding has been given a fresh fillip, especially with e-bikes to assist on hills, but bike-fall injuries are common among over-60s.

Review your sleeping.

Are you waking refreshed? Are you getting six hours uninterrupted sleep? Is your partner disturbing your sleep? Do you need separate beds? Are your bed and pillow right for you? 

Science shows how valuable a good sleep is to every aspect of our lives. Sleep apnoea is common. Talk to a GP or sleep specialist.

Assess your daily diet.

Too much sugar is not good. Fast-food is fast food, not designed around healthy nutrition. What we had as an occasional treat can become an unhealthy habit. 

Food fundamentals: Fresh and raw where possible, simple, good and preferably local food. Light on sauces, light on cakes and biscuits. Smaller serves, share meals.

Review social options and tentatively attend a social group.

Lions, Rotary and Probus are well-known. Church activities, choirs, might appeal. Councils have lists of organisations. If a social group doesn’t hit the mark, try another. As always, it comes down to the people. Are they your type?

Reach out to friends.

Be tolerant of people, limit your time with them. Find a new friend. Friends are found in places and activities of common interest. As we age, we don’t need as many friends: three to five might do. Some are friends with you and your partner. Some are friends just with you.

The brain stays healthy longer with challenges and not just the cryptic crosswords you’ve done for years. Challenges are your challenge, whatever your age. While joining a group is good, getting onto a committee is better.

As Professor Gary Martin, CEO of Australian Institute of Management points out: “While there are no specific rules about how to keep friendships alive, it needs to involve more than ‘liking’ a social media post.”

Consider giving back by volunteering.

It offers the chance to meet others at a similar stage in life.

Professor Gary Martin says: “Those who have left the workforce may find it useful to meet new friends through taking on casual or part-time work. The good news is the number of friends we need in adulthood to feel fulfilled can be as few as three to five.”

Life. Be in it.