The thing about living longer

In the late 1800s, life expectancy was 47.2 for males and 50.8 years for females. Now it’s 84.5 and 87.3 years respectively. We asked YourLifeChoices members to share their fears and their hopes for those extra years.

Des Umbers
I’ve been married for 40-plus years, been working for 50-plus years, and in a few years may be eligible for the Age Pension.

I think the retirement age going to 70 is a good idea. Most of the younger white-collar workers I work with seem to have had extended childhoods into their early 30s, many leaning on their parents for financial support. Doing their stint of 40 years should be fine.

I’m excited that I’ll live to witness more things, but I know from personal experience with my parents that I need to cram in as much as possible before the age of 80.

Dementia is my main concern, as it would severely limit my independence, just as it did Dad’s.

Along with a longer life come the associated medical bills – knees and hips, strokes and slips are all on the cards. Do I go for private health cover? And to avoid gaps do I need to go for full cover? But I can’t afford it on the pension. Do I go public and just join the waiting lists? I don’t see the waiting lists shortening any time soon, but more public finding of healthcare is certainly needed.

I’m positive about the future, as a retiree with reasonable super to provide for a ‘mid-level’ lifestyle. I own my home and have extended family nearby. I’ve already seen the world. I’ll be able afford to travel domestically during my retirement. But I really feel for individuals trying to get by just on the pension.

Heating costs will rise as will most utilities. Housing affordability will mean many will have to rent. Rent and utilities are a major cost to pensioners. We need to address that as a nation going forward.

David Glauser
Australia’s new growth industry – export pensioners! With living costs in Australia going through the roof, the prospect of retiring overseas becomes more and more attractive. But the Australian Government is doing everything it can to make that as difficult as possible.

If we retired in Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Bali or Vietnam, our financial worries for our golden years would be over. The lifestyle we would enjoy would cost the equivalent of $70,000 here in Australia.

Not so fast, says the Government. First, we will reduce your Australian pension because you will now be living overseas. Keep your Australian home and we will classify it as an asset; and that extinguishes your pension. Downsize your home and assets released will reduce or extinguish your pension. Fall ill overseas and you will be on your own – Medicare and health funds won’t want to know you. If you are over 75 and try to buy private travel insurance, good luck.

If pensioners were not disadvantaged so severely by living overseas:

  • there would be less demand on Australian hospitals and medical facilities
  • more large homes, often in city areas, would be freed up for younger families with children
  • there would be less demand for places in Australian retirement homes
  • there would also be less demand for in-home care and carers
  • and pensioners will no longer be worried sick on how to make ends meet!

How to make it happen:

  • allow pensioners to keep their pensions in full overseas
  • allow medical claims on Medicare and health funds from overseas.

A radical idea, yes, but it could so easily be a win-win solution for pensioners and the government.

Patricia Hayward
What delights me about the prospect of living longer?

I may be able to travel on the Indian Pacific, catch the Ghan, fill in the missing stamps from my collection.

What scares me? Not living long enough to get my family history printed out. And the constant changes to income, whether that be from self-funded assets or government pensions, which makes it almost impossible for those over 65 to make good, informed decisions on their futures.

Is it fair to lift the Age Pension eligibility age to 70? No. Many people become ill between the ages of 65 and 70. That’s no fault of their own, merely the body wearing out. After working for 50 years, people should be able to retire with dignity at 65.

Do I understand aged care options and the costs involved? No, because every time I grasp what is involved, it changes again. Living in a rural area doubles the problems.

Are health insurance and out-of-pocket costs a worry?

I gave up on health insurance when the costs started spiralling through the roof and the payouts for procedures shrank. That shrinkage was bad enough but then the companies started dropping items that should have been covered. I was horrified when the government announced tax incentives for people to take up private health insurance, which was insulting to those on a full Age Pension who pay no tax. There is no way they can afford the consequent rise in the cost of health insurance.

Cesar Mantilla
We’re living longer in this new millennium and with that comes both good and bad news. We have extra years to enjoy the pleasures of life, maybe travel, take up a new hobby, build something for the kids or for charity. If you don’t do anything, you will end up a cranky person who whinges about everything. I’ve taken up many hobbies since I turned 65: teaching, rebuilding cars, playing music, dancing – great exercise, and you may meet a nice lady. I’m constantly looking for new adventures. I just bought a welder.

After I had turned 65 and retired, I decided to have lots of fun to maintain my happiness. Whatever you do after 65, you need to plan and try new things.

I’m 75 and in good health. I travel in and out of Australia to different places in Asia, enjoying the nice warm weather and meeting fun people. I only have my pension as income, but travel is cheap in economy class with only carry-on luggage.

However, we do need to consider how we will manage when our health starts failing. It’s in the back of my mind – make a plan to ensure you are supported. That will cost some money whether in Australia or overseas.

My advice? Plan your life activities – what you spend, where you go, what you do. Save as much as you can, then get out of Australia often and live an adventure with every trip.

Catherine*
I love life and learning. There is so much to learn.

Yes, there are downsides to getting older. Sometimes we have to learn to be more dependent on others, which is a rather hard thing to do if you have been an independent person. What scares me about getting older is losing my total independence or having to enter a nursing home. I think the plan to raise the pension age to 70 is appalling. The pension age should be no more than 65, and maybe less, if your health is not very good. 

* Not her real name.

What are your hopes and fears as you get older? Is longevity a bonus or a curse or somewhere in between?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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