How Active Will Your Retirement Be?

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By Andrew Atkinson

seniors2When you picture an ‘old man’, how do you visualise him? You’re not alone if your initial image is of a wrinkled, grey-haired figure in his slippers, sitting on a chair and watching TV or shuffling into the kitchen for a nice, hot drink. We’ve come to understand old age not as an opportunity but as a prison sentence, almost. Many people believe that retirement is about winding down, slowly becoming less and less capable, eventually becoming reclusive…

Is the stereotypical ‘old person’ image really true?

Not only are we thinking negatively and inaccurately when we visualise old people as immobile ‘vegetables’ in rocking chairs, we’re also thinking in a damaging way. A majority of people believe that old people shouldn’t be exercising – that being active can cause damage, or that an active lifestyle simply isn’t realistic – whilst the reality is very different. In fact, research and experience have shown that continued sport and activity through the retirement years continues to prolong lifespan, keeps the mind sharp and will lead to increased health and wellness. Essentially, the more you exercise, the more exercise you’ll be able to do!

If you believe that older people shouldn’t be exercising, and if you decrease your activity level as a result, then the myth becomes self-perpetuating as your body becomes incapable due to a lack of maintenance.

Why, then, do we see ‘old people’ as being incapable?

Becoming a stereotypical old person is one possibility. The image isn’t a complete lie, and there are some elements of your health and fitness that unfortunately are out of your control. What’s interesting, though, is that many people can change their own abilities.

If you don’t use your brain, or a certain part of it, then slowly an ability will fade. You’ll have experienced this if you learned a language at school and then stopped practicing once you left. If you try to speak in a foreign language that you used to know, can you recall it well enough to hold a conversation?

As we age, our brains are more prone to forgetting as the cells starts to wear down. If you don’t test your brain regularly, it will slowly start to give up. Doing puzzles, playing games and socialising are all ways to keep your mind sharp.

Your body is the same. Your muscle mass and fitness level can be maintained, or at least the degradation can be slowed, by keeping up your exercise regime. If you stop trying to be active, you’ll soon lose the ability.

Undoubtedly your body will have different limits at 80 than the limits that it had when you were 20 years old, but it’s important to keep testing those limits and to simply adapt your exercise to suit them. Some older people continue to run marathons, but if you’re not capable of a marathon then it is far better to go on a walk or to enjoy an afternoon of swimming than to assume that you’re ‘too old’ to keep working on your fitness.

Older people should not be seen as incapable, but it is certainly worth bearing in mind that capabilities might be different. Maintaining a good level of activity throughout your life is the best way to ensure that you’re starting from the best possible position when you reach your retirement years. If you’ve led an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle then you will reach retirement age with a body that is already unable to handle a busy lifestyle, but with a good foundation there will be no reason that you can’t be an active older person – even if you end up needing a walking cane for your visits to the park, and a foot spa for relaxation at the end of the day!

Andrew Atkinson is a director of the Mobility Smart team, a UK based online retailer of mobility and many other assisted products. Andrew has a real passion for mobility products and has written numerous articles offering his advice on how to make living easier.

Early Retirement – What Are Your Healthcare Options?

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By Brenda Panin

seniorcoupleexercisesmallOne of the biggest concerns for retirees in today’s economy is healthcare. For those workers who are thinking of retirement prior to turning 65, health insurance can become a major consideration. Where these employees may have enjoyed the benefits of a group health insurance plan with their employers, they now find themselves faced with having to consider options on their own. Hopefully, the following ideas will help you in assessing what you can do if you are pondering an early retirement.

1. COBRA insurance- Acronym for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. This allows workers who have had group health insurance with their previous employer the opportunity to continue that same coverage at a group rate. However, the downside is that you pay the entire insurance premium which can be quite costly. You will pay your share of the cost as you may have done before, but, in addition, you now also pay the employer’s portion, an amount you may have never considered. Moreover, this coverage only lasts up to 18 months after your employment. While COBRA coverage is a relatively expensive option, it might be a short-term solution if you are within a few months of turning 65 and qualifying for Medicare.

2. Employer-offered retiree health insurance – Some employers may offer their own retiree insurance plans to long-term employees. Usually, a formula of combining your age and years of employment is used to determine eligibility. Keep in mind that this is not the same as COBRA coverage, but insurance plans that are specifically set up for retirees. Due to the, you may want to check with your employer early on if you are seriously considering early retirement.

3. Spouse insurance – If your spouse works and has individual coverage through his or her employment, consider having them check to see if their insurance can be converted to a family health plan. The additional premium may cost less than other options.

Unfortunately, many early retirees have to return to full-time work to obtain health care benefits.

4. Part-time employment insurance – Unfortunately, many early retirees have to return to full-time work to obtain health care benefits. However, there are companies that offer part-time employees full health benefits after a period of time. Similar to the COBRA insurance, if you are within a few months to a year of turning 65, this could be a temporary solution until getting Medicare.

5. Private insurance – This is perhaps the most costly option. While other options may involve employer group discounts, purchasing private insurance offers no such discount. Also, while pre-existing conditions may not be a factor when dealing with former employers or coverage through a spouse, starting fresh with a private insurance company may be different.

6. High-deductible catastrophic insurance – This option allows for a low premium, but carries a high deductible and only covers major medical or catastrophic occurrences. This option may not be preferable for younger retirees whose out-of-pocket costs for other medical needs would be quite high.

Undoubtedly, the recent health reform laws have an impact on the foregoing options. With a great number of workers now retiring between the ages of 55 to 64, recent health care reform laws have targeted businesses to offer more employer-sponsored health plans and in some cases are offered incentives to do so. As well, the new laws have prohibited private insurance companies from denying insurance based on pre-existing conditions.

Above all, whatever option or path you happen to pursue regarding early retirement healthcare, start your research early and investigate your options. Obviously, your choices will be different if your only just a few months away from 65 rather than a few years.

– Brenda Panin is a passionate blogger interested in health and fitness. In her free time she enjoys exercising, preparing healthy meals for her family and reading books and articles related to health insurance and new policies.