Living too long and retiring too soon? Has anything changed in 2016?

elderly_man_holding_a_custom_text_sign_12871Sounds good to me. But then I thought I’d retire at about 55 and buy a cheap property in Portugal. Didn’t work out for me and I suspect it doesn’t work out for lots of people despite what Baroness Altmann the former pensions minister and tsar for elderly workers (until this year) might have believed.

She was worried that too many baby boomers are retiring too early and depriving the economy of their input.

She wanted to encourage more people to stay on in work and “not write themselves off”. 

I’m not sure that all of them are doing that. If you’ve been made redundant in your 50s it’s tough to get a job but even those who’ve retired by choice are probably looking after the grandchildren thus allowing their kids to work and contribute to the economy (at no cost to the government for childminding) or even looking after their aged parents.

And many people who’ve retired are involved in voluntary and charity work – unpaid work for the good of the community. Another type of economic activity.

Now the minister knew that was the case so why moan about it instead of helping? She admitted “we as a society have done marvellous things for those who need to care for children but the bigger issue is now caring for older people” i.e. so that people can work longer!

There are now  900,000 more older workers (50-64) than in 2010. Women’s state pension age goes up to 65, the same as men – and why not women live longer anyway, and today an average 65-year old can expect to live another twenty years or so.

Professor Rudi Westendorp, a professor of old-age medicine at Copenhagen University, thinks we should be happy about these changes. He says you should just compare yourself with how your grandparents looked at your age and you will think they look really old. He says “we’re actually much healthier but think we are ill because modern medicine means we get diagnosed earlier and have preventative operations”.

Because of this people like Angus Hanton, co-founder of the think tank Intergenerational Forum were getting hot under the collar and agreed with Altmann that baby boomers should work longer. “It’s part of a wider scandal where millions of baby boomers have stopped working too early and have been given unaffordable pensions creating a packhorse generation of the younger

Two years ago I posted elsewhere on the subject of baby boomers saying stop apologising after tiring of hearing people like Jeremy Paxman apologising. We’ve lived through tougher times than any of our kids have experienced. And if you want to read what the older generation think of the Intergenerational forum’s views click here

Baby Boomers have made massive investments in the economy over the years and deserve their retirement (and their pension should be a right not a taxable benefit). We have one of the worst state pensions in Europe and the government wants to delay us enjoying even that.

Best place in UK to retire?

According to the Pensioners’ Wellbeing Index, which looks at factors such as life expectancy, crime, and healthcare, the Southwest is the place to spend your retirement.

Devon comes top of 20 counties in England and Wales ranked the “safest and nicest” for retirement.

In fact the South West has several placings in the list which is:

1   Devon

2   Dorset

 =3 Powys

=3 Norfolk

5  East Sussex

6  Surrey

7  Gloucestershire

8  West Sussex

9  Suffolk

10 North Yorkshire

There is only one place in the North of England to make the list and that’s in Yorkshire!

So why Devon? It’s mainly rural so less crime. It has an above-average number of health-care workers and men live 19 years longer than average and women 22 years (although Dorset actually has the longest life expectancy).

Christchurch in Dorset also has more pensioners than anywhere else in Britain.

People might say they want adventure in their old age

get_outside_1600_wht_12066The truth is most people stay at home. So when you hear people talk about walking in the Himalayas, exploring the Amazon for lost cities or learning to sky-dive – it’s not very likely to happen.

Two out of three people who say they want this kind of retirement are secretly happy to do a bit of gardening and go for a walk in the countryside according to new research carried out by neuroscientist Jack Lewis.

Researchers tried to find out if people really did want to do the exciting things they professed to want to do. They measured peoples’ emotional state using a galvanic response test (which measures the resistance to electricity in your skin which is affected by moisture) a crude form of lie detector.

Two thirds of people tested showed no response to pictures of risky activities such as safaris, mountaineering, or sailing but got excited looking at tranquil pictures such as flower beds, baking and being at home.

Lewis thinks that people might not have realised that they had actually got beyond some of their retirement fantasies without realising it. The good news is that one third of those tested have not yet given up on having some excitement in their lives.

Th research was carried out on behalf of the Skipton Building Society as part of their DNA of Retirement Project and involved 1,500 people within 10 years of their retirement.

They were categorised as either “adventurers” who had retained a desire for adventure and thrill seeking and these comprised 20% of the people tested, “activity seekers” who said they would be active by walking or swimming when they retired, “comfort seekers” who longed for a slower pace of life, “knowledge seekers” who wanted to study or learn new skills, and “workers” who wanted to continue in work or in volunteering.

One thing almost all the people tested had in common was that they rejected traditional ideas of retirement and images such as “pipe and slippers” or descriptions such as the “Golden years“. And if the evidence on “silver splitters” is anything to go by some people are still looking for romance after retirement.

Lewis says his research has shown that the four activities that were most beneficial for keeping your mind alert and staving off dementia were dancing, playing chess, reading, and playing a musical instrument. Also sport of any kind was beneficial (as is maintaing an exercise routine) and volunteering kept people socially connected.

Some people advocate getting dementia sufferers to be more active and take more risks. Perhaps that would appeal to the adventurers in particular.

See previous posts on dementia here



The impossible dream – Retirement

Leadership & Management

relaxing_cash_1600_wht_7397One in five working people believe they will never be able to afford to retire.

And four out of ten of those who believe they will retire from full-time work believe they will have to work part-time.

These figures come from a poll from the Association of  British Insurers which asked a representative sample of over 2,500 questions about work and welfare.

As there is no longer a statutory retirement age you can theoretically work until you drop.

As the UK has the lowest pension in the EU, half of that in the  Netherlands which is the second worst, and with interest rates on savings being held low, it’s no wonder people of pension age find it hard to make ends meet.

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Retire and feel young again

couple_in_love_1600_wht_10952Apparently people feel healthier and happier once they retire.

They are reported to feel as carefree as when they were in their 30s according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics as part of itsNational Wellbeing Programme.

However almost 20% of people in Britain suffer from depression or anxiety, especially middle-aged people aged between 50 and 54. These figures dropped from 22% in that age group to 14% of people in their late 60s.

People caring for others reported more mental health problems than people living alone and married people feel even better. 

The Chief Executive of the charity Rethink Mental Illness said “These figures highlight how common mental health issues are… NHS services are extremely  limited for people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety (the ONS figures didn’t include severe mental health problems).

Far too many people in this group are given medication as the first ad only option when they should be offered talking therapies. … We need better training for GPs as too many are ill-equipped to treat mental health problems.”

The wellbeing curve shows a downward trend from childhood to middle age before rising again as people reach retirement. The feeling doesn’t last however and drops off again as people reach their 80s when only 30% of people report being satisfied with their health. Nothing surprising really as getting very old, and increasingly infirm, is no fun in a country that doesn’t value old age.help_old_figure_1600_wht_3597

My Dad had to reire early because of a heart problem but once he reached pension age he visibly perked up enrolling at night school classes and passing GCSE exams.

I always thought that it was because of his protestant work ethic which didn’t allow hime to enjoy being retired early but was fine when he was officially a pensioner.

Of course nowadays pensioners are having to carry on working or go back to work to make ends meet as our UK pensions are so paltry compared with other countries – the worst in Europe and half that of the Netherlands which is the next lowest.

Who’s Hitting the Booze?

stick_figure_drunk_500_wht_11670Well it depends which Sunday newspaper you read.

The Observer reported that the Big Lottery Fund has just announced an investment into a UK-wide £25 million programme called “Rethink Good Health“.

It’s aim is to tackle late-onset alcohol misuse.

The Big Lottery Fund chairman Peter Ainsworth says he doesn’t want to stop older people enjoying themselves but the public tends to stigmatise younger people for drinking.

There is now a lot of  evidence that as people get older and face life-changing events such as retirement or bereavement, or when they are lonely, in pain or suffer ill-health, they may start to drink more.

A charity called Phoenix, which helps people with drug or alcohol problems, is seeing an epidemic of older people overdoing it with more being admitted to hospital as a result. In the last five years there has been a 62% increase in alcohol-related admissions for the over-65s.

An estimated 1.4 million people aged 65 and over currently exceed recommended drinking limits. As baby boomers move into old age they drink higher levels than previous generations (and well we might some would say!)

Experts advise that we abstain from drink on at leat two days a week but the over-65s are more likely than any other age group to drink on six or seven days a week. And although there are more men than women who drink enough to harm themselves (1 in 5 men & 1 in 10 women) it is women in this category which has increased by 100% over the last twenty years compared to a 40% rise in men.

Which bring me to the second report in the Sunday Times. Based on research by CACI, it reported that is was rich women who are the hard drinkers.

wine_and_glass_1600_wht_10688I’ve posted about women and drinking before and the advantages for women of moderate drinking.

The CACI research shows that women who live in posh post-code areas are more likely to have an alcohol problem than those who live in more modest areas.

So if you live in a million-pound home and enjoy a six-figure salary you may be one of the tw0-thirds of women who drink more than the recommended 3 units of alcohol a day.

Men and women in these areas also suffer more than twice the level of anxiety and nerves (6.5%) than the general population. The only people more likely to suffer like this are those living in high-rise flats, elderly people in social housing and young renters.

Women who live in these expensive areas usually don’t need to work and are socially active – “ladies who lunch”.

martini_glass_figure_1600_wht_7486There is a similar phenomenon in post-codes popular with footballers. 40% of footballers’ wives drink more than the recommended limit compared to 29% nation-wide. Their male partners also drink more but their healthy lifestyles and diet can mask the problem.

The perception is that drinking at home, particularly wine, is safe and sensible. This has been called the silent epidemic which can lead to significant health problems later in life.

Pre-retirement MoTs

two_way_puzzle_people_800_wht_4872Relate, the relationship charity, has said that couples approaching retirement should give their marriage an MoT.

It says older couples rate their relationship as one of the most important things in their life, second only to good health. They also rate it higher than financial security or relationships with their children.

Relate says that people may look after their health and save for retirement but don’t think about their relationship.

There has been an increase in couples over 60 divorcing – 50% up from ten years ago. This trend for “silver separation” has potentially dire consequences. Older married or co-habiting couples are more likely to be satisfied with life than those who are separated, divorced or single.  And people living alone are more likely to suffer poorer health and have shorter life expectancy

People in this age group separate for a variety of reasons. For some just the thought of growing old together is too much to contemplate as life expectancy increases. For some it happens once the children have left home or got married. For others it’s just the thought of being alone together, even on a holiday, after being used to spending time apart when still working. And because you are getting older doesn’t mean you are past it.

The Chief Executive of Relate, Ruth Sunderland, said; “retirement is a good time to think about your relationship: is it ready for the changes later life can bring?”

Relate has joined forces with Gransnet to encourage older couples to assess their relationships with the help of an online tool called Relationship Checker which can be found at

Based on article in The TimesOver-60s need to work at creating silver lining” 22 March 2013