Feel great about your life ahead

The issue of ageing is high on the national agenda with the recent release of the intergenerational report and talk of work life extending into later years. The Treasurer declared that, "the grey army is going to deliver prosperity in Australia's future and we need older Australians, to remain in the work force and to come back into the work force”. Well (with tongue in cheek) we could say that “it’s nice to be noticed”!

In all seriousness, however, it is true that the number of people aged over 65 will double by the year 2055 and it is not really that surprising that the current government is aiming to increase age pension age to 70 by 2035. When you consider that the Age Pension has not increased above 65 years since it was introduced in 1909 and that the average time spent in retirement back then was only 11 years, change is probably overdue.

Today over 85 per cent of the male population reaches retirement age and the average time in retirement has increased to more than 19 years.

The benefits of working longer
The old delineation between work and retirement is being blurred and the notion of having a fixed retirement age and a sudden change of life is becoming less relevant for many. While some may be happy to jump into retirement as soon as possible, others may be equally happy to carry on a productive and happy working life – and why shouldn’t we? Technology is making work options more flexible and the shift in the economy away from manufacturing and toward service industries means that it is feasible in many occupations to continue working well beyond age 65.

While no one likes to see their entitlements curtailed, the value of staying employed (at least part-time) in later life can be a real positive. Why surrender to a norm that says you should retire if you don’t want or choose to? Your talents and ability don’t magically disappear at any prescribed age. in fact, the more experience and knowledge you have, the more valuable you are.

After all many of those who retire on the dot of age 65 will end up longing for the social interaction, fulfilment and mental stimulation that their work provided.

More time to enjoy life
The other dynamic at play in the retirement formula is that life expectancy is still creeping higher. Even though retirement age is going up, the length of retirement is actually getting longer. The real question is not so much how long we will be retired, but what is the quality of life will we enjoy in retirement and what can we do to enhance it.

Will you stay fit and active? Maintain independence? Will you be engaged in activities and relationships that will stimulate and enrich your life?

At a broader level, the government has an important role to play in facilitating quality of life through the health system. While focus seems to be on the retirement age issue, the projected growth in health costs is a much bigger budgetary problem for the country. Perhaps all the angst over changes to retirement ages would be better directed at asking governments to ensure they adequately fund quality health care instead.

Governments can only do so much, however, and it is at the personal level that we each must make our own decisions and nurture our own attitudes about living a full and productive life as we get older.

Ready to start today?
While some physical differences are inevitable, it is our approach to the years passing and our ability to embrace it that can make such a positive difference. We can’t always prevent the stiffer joints and greyer hair, but we can take action to enjoy and appreciate life more fully.

These ideas will help:

  • Pursue vitality: Focus on staying healthy, strong and fit. Set exercise goals that are achievable yet challenging. Make an effort to be more proactive and informed on making food choices too – it is never too late.
  • Engage in the present: Rediscover the simple pleasures of life. Stop and appreciate your environment, your partner, your family and friends. Be thankful and live in the moment, rather than worrying about the future or regretting the past.
  • Appreciate yourself: Don’t obsess about your body, but do take care of your body better to improve self-esteem. It is never too late to shake off bad habits that limit your enjoyment of life and your ability to love yourself.
  • Nurture creativity: Rediscover your creative self. When we were children we loved making things with our own hands. A life of work may have made it difficult to spend time on creative pursuits, so why not rediscover your inner child and rekindle an old skill or learn a new one.
  • Foster relationships: Make the effort to look outside of yourself by remaining as socially active as possible, rather than dwelling in your own world. Meaningful contact with family, friends, ex-workmates, neighbours, club associates or church acquaintances helps to keep your mind stimulated and positive and keeps you as a participant in life instead of a spectator.

For more inspiration click here to take a look at this fascinating project by photographer, Laura Nikas 

The best years are yet to come. Read more here about why baby boomers are happier than ever here.

What is your best advice about embracing life and being happy? Join our conversation below…