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Heading for retirement?

Heading for retirement?

A psychiatrist’s advice for maintaining wellbeing

Netcare Akeso – Media Release

Taking an active interest in maintaining general health and wellbeing in one’s golden years should include paying close attention to the connection between mental and physical health, memory and social connectedness.

This is according to Dr Ryan Fuller, a psychiatrist specialising in geriatric mental health – or mental health of the aged – and practising at the Memory Care units at Netcare Akeso Alberton and Netcare Akeso Parktown, who says that while retirement is intended to be a period of relaxation, this major life change can in fact be an enormous stressor, possibly triggering a decline in one’s mental as well as physical health.

“When people retire they often experience what we call existential angst, feeling a sense of dread brought on by what they may view as a loss of identity. It is also unfortunately the case that few people plan adequately for retirement, which contributes towards stress levels,” Dr Fuller says.

“We see a significant increase in the mortality rate amongst retired men in particular, who tend to experience weakened immune systems and whose physical health may deteriorate when they stop working. It is often recommended that men should not retire fully for this reason.”

Dr Fuller notes that physical factors such as chronic diseases including high blood pressure or diabetes can also contribute towards mental health concerns by placing individuals at risk of vascular dementia, brought on by damage to the brain’s blood vessels caused by a stroke, for example.

“The best thing you can do for yourself in your golden years is to commit to making consistent daily efforts in maintaining a lifestyle which supports overall health and wellbeing,” he says.

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain

Fuller’s advice is to keep it simple and stick to the basics of good health.

“What is good for the heart is also good for the brain, so if you are eating healthily, being physically active, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol intake and avoiding smoking, you are working from a good baseline. Simply going for a 20 minute walk each day has been shown to benefit every aspect of your health, provided you are walking somewhere safe.

“When it comes to nutrition, eating a Mediterranean diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and very little red meat is by far the most sensible way to look after your heart. Regular hydration is essential and is often a problem area amongst elderly individuals, who may have mobility issues and therefore avoid drinking to limit visits to the bathroom. This is not a good idea, as it is vital to drink at least 1.5L to 2L of hydrating fluid daily. This also means avoiding too much caffeine as this is a diuretic.

Stay busy, keep learning and be social

For boosting the mind, Dr Fuller advises keeping a hand written diary, as the process of writing is good for memory. “Engaging in activities such as knitting or needlework, adult colouring books, listening to your favourite music, doing puzzles, sudoku and word searches are all good for cognition. It is very important to try new things such as learning a language or skill to continue cognitive development,” he says.

“Keep things short and sweet – you need spend no more than 15 to 20 minutes on such tasks. It is important that you enjoy what you are doing and that you don’t find it stressful. Playing Bridge is one of the best things you can do for your mind as this includes a social element as well. Getting out into the world and socialising in person is an important form of cognitive stimulation and highly beneficial for mental health.

“For those who enjoy short bursts of digital interaction there are some useful apps available, such as Lumosity for cognitive exercise and Calm for helping with stress and sleeping, though too much screen time is not advisable, as an excess of blue light can cause insomnia.

“On that note, it is important to get enough uninterrupted sleep without the use of sleeping pills, as long term use of this type of medication is a risk factor for dementia. Exercise and cognitive activity during the day are important for becoming naturally tired and ready to sleep at night.

“Freud said that to be happy, humans need someone to love, to be loved and something to do. Jung took this one step further by saying that what we do must be meaningful – whether this is in a spiritual or personal sense, it must generate some kind of personal satisfaction.

“Paying attention to mental health should be a part of daily life, no matter your age, and it is certainly an important aspect of ageing well. Just as you practice habits like flossing your teeth, you should do daily mental exercises. And just as you would visit your GP for any physical concerns, it is important to be proactive and reach out for mental help when going through a stressful time or a major life change, such as retirement,” concludes Dr Fuller.


The key to retirement well-being, is to develop a diversified “life portfolio”

The key to retirement well-being, is to develop a diversified “life portfolio”

Steve Vernon wrote “Secrets Of A Successful Retiree: From A Retirement Professional” for Forbes online. He writes:

“What are the retirement planning strategies that an internationally recognised retirement expert successfully has used to plan her own retirement? There’s plenty you can learn from Anna Rappaport, a researcher, consultant, author, and speaker on a variety of retirement planning topics.

Rappaport is also a past-president of the Society of Actuaries and the current chair of its Aging and Retirement Research Initiative Steering Committee. In that role, she puts a special focus on women’s retirement security, which differs in some key ways from retirement security in general.

Recently, Rappaport shared her personal perspectives on and experience with retirement in a guest post written for Nerd’s Eye View, the influential blog from Michael Kitces for financial advisors. Her post, titled “Reboot, Rewire or Retire? Personal Experiences With Phased Retirement and Managing A Life Portfolio,” focuses on the non-financial aspects of retirement. She believes these goals are just as important as creating financial security in retirement.

Rappaport believes that the key to retirement well-being, is to develop a diversified “life portfolio” consisting of:

  • Health
  • People (family, friends, professional contacts)
  • Pursuits (work, volunteering, hobbies, community activities, travel)

Much of current retirement literature and advertising focuses on the “vacation” aspects of retirement, with dreamy pictures of couples walking on the beach at sunset, hand in hand, or holding rum drinks with miniature umbrellas. But Rappaport appropriately points out that a vacation is a break from what we normally do. “People who retire with the idea of an endless vacation are likely to be disappointed or bored within a year or two, if not sooner,” she says.

Rappaport’s post details the various ways that people can continue working, earning, and remaining engaged in their retirement years. She provides interesting insights for people who’ve held senior positions or visible roles during their careers. She advocates making a conscious choice between being known as “me, today” vs. “me, former vice president/director/partner/important title.” She has chosen to be known as “me, today” but describes her extensive former roles in her bio.

Rappaport also advocates planning with the rest of your life in mind. Too often, people approaching their retirement years plan for the “go-go” period of retirement and overlook the inevitable “slow-go” and “no-go” periods of their lives. Sooner or later, spouses, family, and friends will need support and care, and it’s important to be there when they need help. And eventually, you might need help, too, from the social network that you’ve carefully nurtured.

The last lines of Rappaport’s post are compelling: “Some things require a lot of vitality. Do them now while you can. You never know when limitations are coming.”

Some people use these type of thoughts to justify spending lots of money on that cruise to Tahiti they’ve always wanted to take. While that might be fun, don’t blow your savings and end up jeopardizing your financial security in your remaining years.

Better yet, consider Rappaport’s final advice as motivation to work on any unfinished business in your life. This might range from reconnecting with family and friends you haven’t seen in a while to taking up a cause or interest that you’re passionate about or even working on your “bucket list.” It can be one way to lead a fulfilling life without spending a lot of money.

Rappaport’s wisdom can help older workers and retirees better prepare for an enjoyable and fulfilling retirement. While this post just skimmed some key and unique highlights of her post, it contains many more insights and details, and would be a great read for anyone approaching their retirement years.”

To read the rest of the article, click here.

If you ever wondered what to do with your time when you retire, click on this link.

Shire Retirement Properties (Pty) Ltd, is dedicated to the development of a mature retirement industry for South Africa, with broad sharing of knowledge, best practices, improved transparency and standards – all in the best interests of those who wish to retire with peace of mind.

The 7 dimensions of wellness

The 7 dimensions of wellness

The concept of wellness moves the definition of health and well-being away from a mindset based in the management of disease and into the areas of prevention and proactive strategies.

Active aging embodies the philosophy that individuals can live as fully as possible within the seven dimensions of wellness. The wellness dimensions overlap and coordinate to provide rich environments for living. Wellness becomes a framework that is valuable for serving the wants and needs of a person engaged in life.

The 7 dimensions of wellness are believed to be:

  1. Emotional
  2. Intellectual, cognitive
  3. Physical
  4. Professional, vocational
  5. Social
  6. Spiritual
  7. Environmental

The International Council For Active Aging (ICAA) discusses the wellness dimensions in the following article. To read more, click here.

While the aging process is normal and affects us all in different ways, there are some things that we can all do to ensure that we “put time on our side”. Click here to read more.