How can one live holistically during the expected longer retirement years – physically, mentally, financially and spiritually? Ageing well is not just about preserving your body and face or keeping active mentally or socially, but is about integrating all these things. Find out about the three secrets and three rules.

Holistic Retirement

Baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are entering retirement or will be soon. They can expect a life expectancy of about 80 years, i.e. half of them would live up to 80 and half beyond 80.

How should they live holistically these long retirement years – physically, mentally, financially and spiritually?

Books on ageing, state that ageing well is not just about preserving your body and face, or keeping active mentally or socially, but is about integrating all these things. All of us know that just as exercising does wonders for our brains, plenty of savings can do wonders for our peace of mind and happiness too.

THREE SECRETS

Ageing and health experts identify three important things to live well and live longer.

  • Reduce stress
  • Live in a country with good healthcare like Singapore
  • Stay healthy and keep active
Value of Exercise

Exercising is the key to staying healthy and young. It helps our heart and our mental health. It is one of the best ways to lose weight and prevent diseases.

Studies have shown that you can keep yourself as fit at 65 as you were at 40.

Exercise slows the loss of muscle mass and helps prevent rapid loss of bone minerals. It keeps the heart and all systems in your cardiovascular system healthy. People who regularly engage in endurance exercise such as running on a treadmill, have less hardening of the arteries than those in the same group who did not exercise.

The best benefit is enjoyed by those who do at least half an hour endurance exercise to get their heart rate up, whether it be jogging, swimming or mopping the floor.

Exercise is as crucial to our health and well-being as eating well – so exercise everyday and keep at it. If you stop exercising after just two weeks, the benefits of exercising start to wear off. After two to eight months, the benefits disappear altogether.

Exercise is not just about tuning up your bodies; it is to help your brain, your attitude and your entire being. Just as exercising preserves muscle mass, it also slows the loss of brain tissue common in ageing.

Four Elements of Exercise

  1. Endurance training – increases stamina, exercises heart
  2. Strength training – builds muscle mass
  3. Stretching – keeps you flexible
  4. Balance – keeps you steady on your feet
TAKING CARE OF YOUR BODY Eat Well

Eat the right stuff and in moderation, and keep healthy and young.

Diets normally do not work without long-term lifestyle changes.

The only sure way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you need.

Fight obesity – it is one sure way to shortening your life and making you age faster.

The effects of obesity on life expectancy could soon become bigger than cancer or coronary artery disease. Obesity itself might not be a major cause of death, but it puts you at a much higher risk for all kinds of diseases that do cut lives short.

Three Rules

Except for smoking where abstinence is best, the best rule for eating is "everything in moderation".

The second rule is to stick to whole foods – not processed. Examples are the Okinawa diet of fish, whole grains and fresh vegetables, or the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oils, tomatoes, fish and cheese. Keep to a minimum foods from jars, cans, boxes and styrofoam because they contain loads of salt, sugar and additives.

The third rule is – watch the “S” foods – sugar, salt and starch, but remember the key word “moderation”.

TAKING CARE OF YOUR BRAIN

Our minds represent our being, and keeping our minds active and healthy is paramount.

Stay mentally challenged and mentally sharp.

Your brain is just like every other muscle in your body – if you do not use it, it will get weak. If your brain is not kept stimulated, the dendrites – the tree-like extensions of a neuron that receive information from other neurons – actually atrophies.

Our brains can continue to generate new cells even into older age, and slow the decline. Studies have shown that the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced by exercising your brain. This is the reason why highly educated people have a lower rate of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. They continue to do “cognitive processing” such as analysing, solving and multi-tasking. Television-watching, unfortunately, is low on “cognitive processing”.

In contrast, staying curious, new experiences, new challenges and relationships help the mind to stay active. Learn new skills, keep on asking “why” questions. Albert Einstein: "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious".

SLEEP

Get eight hours of sleep. The Rapid Eye Movement (REM) part of your sleep helps preserve cognitive function and helps your brain recuperate from the stresses of the day.

Studies show people who do not get enough sleep become depressed more easily. It is not true that the older you get, the less sleep you need.

NURTURE YOUR SOUL

Equally important to physical exercise is nurturing your soul or spirit.

If you are not happy, not satisfied or not taking care of yourself emotionally, you are not in the best of health. Think about how will you live well and age well. How will you be fulfilled?

One way is to have good friends, not just acquaintances. Socialising is important to health. Having great social ties, whether it is in your marriage, with friends and with co-workers, is one of the best ways to alleviate stress.

Retirees often miss the social networks that having a job brings, rather than the actual job. They should build new friendships through recreation clubs, church, hobbies, volunteer work and even second careers.

Treasure your friends.

HAVING PURPOSE

Studies have shown that patients who search for meaning and purpose in their lives after a major illness, tend to have lower mortality and sickness rates. People with a great sense of purpose have order and control, and know what they want to do and need to do. Those who have their “half-time” review and know their second-half purpose are filled with purpose and direction.

Studies show that believing in something – God, a spiritual philosophy or calling, a set of morals – tends to help people live longer and healthier. People without this purpose may lose motivation and purpose in their post-retirement phase as they lose their place in their companies and society.

HEALTHY FINANCE

Studies show annuitants (those who are on pension or receive annuities for as long as they live) live longer than non-annuitants. This is because they have no or less financial anxiety.

Those who have prepared, saved and invested for their retirement, would enjoy their retirement years more than those who have failed to plan for retirement. While children would do well to honour their parents and support them in their old age, parents cannot assume and presume this. It is better to prepare for one’s own retirement years financially, and gifts from children would be a bonus.

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