Retirement health checklist: It’s about more than just money

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Ask anyone paving a path towards retirement or those closer to retirement age and some will say that money is a major concern. But retirement planning is about so much more than just money.

Health should top your list of priorities – if you have your priorities straight. After all, you can’t spend (or save) money without your health. While your health may be good right now, a very important part of retirement planning should also be about your future health needs. Having access to healthcare that caters to each stage of retirement should play a part in where you live out your later years.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to choose an ideal retirement postcode, one that offers a combination of community, lifestyle and facilities.

“Some people move to a place where they spent vacations and have great memories,” says gerontologist Dr Suzanne Salamon.

“But often these places are remote and not close to medical care. People have to realise that, as they age, there may be medical problems they didn’t anticipate. Being close to a good hospital can make the difference between a good or bad outcome.”

When planning retirement, especially your living situation, geriatrician Dr Helen Chen suggests following ‘The Five Ms’ – an idea conceived by researcher Mary Tinetti, of Yale University.

The Five Ms are:

Mind
How will you stay intellectually active and manage your mood in retirement? Will you find enough mental stimulation?

Maintaining mental activity is important in keeping you cognitively healthy, which will help stave off dementia, depression, delirium and memory problems.

Move
Will you be able to get to key places (such as a grocery store), even if you can’t drive yourself? Is there good reliable public transport nearby? Or will you be close enough to someone who can transport you in case you can’t do it yourself? If you have to drive everywhere, how will you manage that?

Also, exercising and maintaining the ability to balance and walk properly will help prevent falls and other injuries, reduce your risk of other health issues and keep you fit and healthy. Will you be in a position to do this on a regular basis?

Mingle
Will you be socially connected in retirement? Will you be close to friends and family? If you decide to move away from your current community, will you be able to break in socially to your new community? Will you still have contact with your friends and family?

It is easy to fall off the map in retirement, so maintaining healthy social connections will go a long way to keeping you in a happy, content state of mind which will have a flow-on effect for your general health.

Meaning
What will be your purpose in later life? Is it all just wine and roses? Will you focus on your favourite hobby, the garden or ticking off your travel wishlist? Or will you spend some of your retirement giving a little something back to your community or those in need?

One of the earliest casualties of retirement is losing the sense of purpose you felt in your working years. Having purpose contributes to mental wellbeing. Find out what matters most to you in retirement and put your energy into finding and maintaining some sense of purpose.

Multicomplexity
Do you have a third-stage health plan? Will you be able to afford and attend regular health checks? What happens if your partner falls ill or if you’re on your own and dealing with your health issues?

It’s as difficult to achieve this ‘M” as it is to say. Multicomplexity is planning for the logistics and management of myriad health problems associated with ageing, including appointments, medications, tests and regular screenings. It also requires assessing your living conditions in accordance with age, health conditions and social concerns.

In short, these are the health factors you need to focus on when planning retirement living:

  • medical services
  • non-profit health services, such as meal delivery
  • transportation services
  • affordable housing options
  • recreation opportunities
  • volunteering opportunities
  • private-duty services (such as a companion or certified nursing assistant).

And, as many of you will know by now, home-owning retirees will benefit more than renting retirees, especially age pensioners, so housing affordability should be a priority.

“If it’s not affordable, you’ll cut back on other necessities like food and healthcare. Affordability problems only get worse as you get older,” said Jennifer Molinsky, senior researcher with Harvard’s Joint Centre for Housing Studies.

Finally, if you’re planning to buy a new house for retirement, a bit of planning at the purchasing stage will help you age at home for longer.

“Stairs can be a problem, so it can be beneficial to have all rooms on one floor. Even having steps to reach the front door can cause problems later,” says Dr Salamon

What are your tips for a healthy retirement? What do you do that might cost a little extra now but could save you money in the future?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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