The good and the not-so-good about living longer

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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.

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


Total Comments: 18
  1. 0

    I am planning on living a long and healthy life and my research on the food resources of the world’s longest living culture (yes, that of the Australian Aborigines) suggests that eating more wild and near wild foods will help a great deal with ageing slowly.

    The interesting finding from all the nutritional research ito wild foods is that they are unparallelled sources of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, anti-allergens, adaptogens, anti-carcinogens (with numerous actions including anti-proliferative and pro-apopototic effects), organic acids, good sugars, bioavailable minerals and more. Many of the compounds responsible for this impressive list of beneficial effects are simply missing or in extremely low levels in moderns foods.

    Fortunately, because I have been involved in the wild food industry for over 35 years, I can add a wide selection to my daily meals and I must say that I have never felt better in my life. My fitness and blood biochemistry at 63 is the same as when I was 18 and i still don’t wear glasses or take any medications.

    If you want to know more, just Google me.

  2. 0

    David Glauser probably wrote his contribution before he or anyone else realised that our mean-spirited government has just closed access to anyone outside Australia, NZ and a few Pacific islands to play Lotto. There was no warning given to regular players like myself, and certainly no explanation when I contacted TheLott other than “to comply with Australian and international laws” – so we can only assume it’s a heavy-handed response to the money laundering that the big banks have turned a blind eye to for so long. But a bit of warning would have been a nice touch and might even have fooled some players into thinking we have a government that cares about its people!!!
    And please don’t troll this post – I realise that playing Lotto is not a major part of retirement living in Australia, and that there are many bigger issues for us to be concerned about, but I still think it was a seriously weak act to not let us know about the ban so we could have made advance purchases (for upto 10 weeks) before leaving – or take out a subscription if going away for longer than 10 weeks.
    Poor form indeed!!!

  3. 0

    Agree totally with David Glauser, and could never understand why the government wanted to make it so difficult for pensioners to settle in a country which provided an affordable living.

    I moved to Thailand after been made redundant at 57 years of age, and unable to find employment in Australia (9 months in Melbourne and Perth of) because of my age, not my financial experience. I did a TEFL course, and started teaching English here, and did so for 12 years, when I decided to retire, so investigated my options.

    While I was working here, the government had passed the 2 year qualification rule for portable pensions, so my wife and I went to Australia, and I applied for the pension.

    Obviously, I could only get a single pension. When we inquired about residency for my wife I was advised she couldn’t work, and I couldn’t keep her on a single pension so she had to return to Thailand, even though I had one year to gain portability.

    I lost my wife to lung cancer in June this year, we were married 18 years, and am living happily with her family here. I couldn’t afford to return to Australia and start again.

    I turn 78 next week, and am in good condition, but did see how quickly one can go down when cancer struck my wife, but I don’t expect any help from the Australian government.

  4. 0

    UK pensioners paid in all their lives ,Some OZ paid a bit for their super but even tho most wages in OZ are twice that of US ,Uk and most countries they even expect their bosses to pay on top of that 85% of the population get some sort of social security and pensioners complain about their pensions ..They say we paid our taxes ,but that was for their kids to go to school,snivels at the doctor ,roads etc still wasn’t enough…. Income in OZ is too high
    Just look at the credit card debt,queues of people buying the lottery tickets ,Look at the car parks at the clubs at midday,all pensioners playing the pokies,and on tv. every night “Young people wont ever buy a house ,My parents never got one until they were 40,only becaused they saved but that’s a dirty word. Houses are being handed back because they went for 4 bedrooms ,double garage ,holidays in bali
    Iwalked past centrelink one am. and the mob were kicking the door down because they were a minute late opening ,I shouted to them “”Why don’t you go on strike ? 50% never paid enough tax to deserve a pension.. I would suggest we all earn it by picking up paper and polishing lampposts,,,…Thank you BHP,Fortisque for without that hole in the ground we,d have to live at the same standard as the rest of the world..As for overseas,,,,, 2 guys have been air vaaced back from Philippines .Imagine that would pay for a hell of a lot of pensions,,,,I know from experience those girls will dump you when the money runs out,or when you are dribbling in a wheel chair big brother pays for the whole family with your credit card

  5. 0

    Its a funny thing about statistics. My Greats born in the C19th lived into their mid 90s.
    Lots of babies died in childbirth and from infant diseases. Lots of men died in wars and in the work place.
    Some people have got to live a longer life due to better nutrition, medical science and working conditions. A lot were going to live a long life anyway.

    This is it. Your time to walk on a planet we call earth. Have you seen it all? Tick tock.

  6. 0

    Your expected to work until 70 then do your bit for australia by carking it, and make it quick to save government money.

  7. 0

    I wonder how many of the systems people use to increase their “healthy life span” actually work.

    • 0

      Who determines “their” life span Charlie , the individual, their spouse, the gubbermint or a throw of the dice. Does it matter? From the moment we’re born we live till we die and that’s a fact, crap food, calisthenics, positive thinking, vitamins, quack’s, astrology and god bothering – all humbuggery. Enjoy the moment, it may be your last.

  8. 0

    Aging is neither a bonus or a curse, it’s a fact of life. It scares some to such a degree they run as fast their wonky legs’ll carry em – in the opposite direction. Witness the new-oldies, sashaying round in glad rags borrowed from their children, tempting the devil on a motor bike, boot scootin, chasing the almighty buck – good luck, and kiddin emselves they’ve still got it by waving their hands in the air at a performance of some wrinkly and aged performer who reminds em of their youth.
    Gee I must have it totally wrong, here I was thinking aging was a process of accruing wisdom, maybe finding serenity and enjoying the finer things of life, not chasing all the crap we think we missed out on. ‘Somewhere, over the rainbow…’

    Not to say settle back and await the grim reaper, but embrace life commensurate with the age and stage of seniority… it’s the last hurrah. This isn’t a dress rehearsal, the togs you’re wearing aren’t a costume and that which surrounds you certainly aren’t stage props.
    Break a leg!

  9. 0

    You know if you did real research you would know that the only generation who will live longer are the ones alive in their 90s and 100s now. Have we forgotten about the obesity pandemic, cancer etc? Its Government spin for why we are cutting spending on aged care….

  10. 0

    Good lord I cant believe someone worrying about lotto,have you heard the odds ???
    My neighbour left his lunch dived into his car as he had a minute to go b4 deadline he hit a car did 10k of damage UNINSURED !!! he spent 30 bucks a week and never won ,After 15 years I am now that’s 22,500 plus 10k + 32599 dollars I am ahead of him
    It takes me 5 mins to get my paper as I have to queue behind a line of lotto dimwits
    I asked some young guys why they were going to Bali every year and they said the bars are fun there ,Now they are the same guys we are being told to feel sympathy for cos they will never be able to buy a house

    one thing that gets me is the people who come to the seniors meeting and want to show where they have travelled overseas ,They say that’s their pension money ,yet they live in 3 million dollar houses and get the full pension yet I get a reduced pension living on a tenth of their assets

    • 0

      Now now, gerry – just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean you have to take it out on me! I specifically asked people not to bother trolling my post, and yet you obviously couldn’t resist!
      Sadly, you’ve also missed the whole point – I wasn’t discussing my chances of winning Lotto, whatever the odds – it’s my choice whether I play or not, and has nothing to do with you.
      My point was quite simply that the government in its ‘wisdom’ has seen fit to remove a source of enjoyment for many Australians by enacting laws to block access to Lotto from outside of Australia, NZ and several Pacific islands (Nauru, Christmas Island, Norfolk Island, etc). Worse, they didn’t think to let anyone know beforehand so they/we could make alternative arrangements – something that’s generally known as ‘good customer service’.
      That’s all, gerry – and I’m sorry about your neighbour’s car but it’s really nothing to do with me (or you)!

    • 0

      Marlin, I didn’t get the impression gerry was “having a bad day” – I doubt it was his intention to “take it out on (you)” – you’ve brought it on yourself as a result of posting the gripe about Lotto exclusion and expecting people to abide by your ruling excluding trolled replies.

      What exactly is your point – relative to the subject matter, which, as I understand it, is ‘Longevity’….
      ot Lotto.

      That you choose to post on a public forum – whatever the subject – thereby invites a likelihood of response. Whether or not any one persons’ response meets with your approval is – as you succinctly stated – “nothing to do with you”. For that matter it’s probably nothing to do with me also, but I would hope your success with Lotto is everything you wish for, good luck.

    • 0

      MD, I don’t really care what impression you got about gerry’s day – I was talking to him, not you. But you ask me what is my point, so I’ll tell you:
      We were specifically invited to respond to the questions, “What are your hopes and fears as you get older? Is longevity a bonus or a curse or somewhere in between?”
      In response to the second question I pointed out that the Australian gov’t has just, without warning, terminated an outlet that’s enjoyed by many people including those who are getting older.
      Then gerry decides that he can’t believe someone’s worrying about Lotto, apparently because of the odds – which missed my point completely. And then you come along…….

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