THE BLOG

Retirement - Dream or Nightmare?

14/04/2015 20:03 BST | Updated 14/06/2015 10:59 BST

Whoever you are, whatever your age the fact is that we are all getting a little bit older every day and one day may think about "retiring". Rules of retirement changed in October 2011 when the UK's default retirement age of 65 was finally abolished stopping employers from compulsorily retiring workers once they reached the age 65. Great news for many 65 year olds, who as a result can now continue in most forms of employment should they so chose.

Traditionally the younger generation assumed older people would retire between 55 and 65 and would then need to be looked after because ageing is an illness! The assumption was that we older folk were incapable of changing our lifestyle, our opinions, our outlook, our religion, or our politics because of our age! Ageism had presumed we'd come to the end of our productive life and therefore we'd be a burden (and a growing burden) on society and the health service.

Potentially this is a big problem for future generations, but those of us not born yesterday realise that forcing people to retire was wasting knowledge, experience and more importantly was leading to early decline for older people who felt they were being thrown onto the rubbish heap. So by shattering the retirement myth of rocking chair and slippers it now means we have the choice of continuing to work on - whether for financial reasons, or because we feel we can, or we want to. Alternatively we can still choose to take retirement and to use that time pursuing our hobbies or fulfilling lifelong dreams.

However, recent figures from Age UK worryingly show that three million people in the UK are aged 80 or over, and amazingly for the first time in history there are 11million people over the age of 65. This means that nearly 14.7million people in the UK are 60 or over and even more astonishing there are now more pensioners than there are children under the age of 16.

As an older person I can assure the younger generation that many of us, whether we have chosen to retire or continue working have much to offer, not least of which is experience. Like many of my contemporaries I still work, travelling the world as a fitness guru or nearer to home as a broadcaster and journalist, communicating and encouraging others of "retirement" age on how to continue being a useful, fit and happy member of society.

And it's fitness that can turn our later years of either work or retirement into a dream. Being healthy can alleviate the increasing strain on the health services which our younger people will have to work hard to fund in the future. Recent research undertaken by Stannah, the stair lift people, revealed that 55+ year olds are amongst the worst in Great Britain for taking their health and fitness seriously. The number of people who do exercise on a regular basis equate to almost half that of their 25-34 year old counterparts. A lack of fitness could turn those later years into a nightmare for this older age group.

The online survey indicated that 98% of those over the age of 55 do understand the purpose of a healthy lifestyle, and that nearly one in five of them have already been medically advised to take regular exercise! The excuses for not doing so range from lack of time, to preferring to exercise at home or outside of the gym, since the fitness industry appears to be designed for a younger audience with minimal options available for those who prefer to exercise at their own pace.

Some of this group wrongly consider they are too old or think that it's too late to worry about a healthy lifestyle. Others believe that hobbies such as walking or golf are ample exercise, which at least that's a positive start! But I believe that keeping fit should be available to everyone, no matter what age or fitness ability, and for that reason I created a DVD with home exercises specifically for the over 55's giving them the convenience and confidence to exercise whenever they like.

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Maturing is perceived to be an advantage for many things, wine and cheese come to mind, so let's apply the same logic to ourselves! Let's learn to nurture and take care of ourselves, and ideally from an early age. Because trust me you're never too old or too young to start! Staying active over the years is the first step to helping maintain mobility and independence for all of us. Your wellbeing and fitness will improve your quality of life and could make your later life and eventually your retirement less of a myth and more of a dream!