What will you do to stay healthy in retirement? And why is it so important?

Hopefully you don't think it's too controversial an opinion to hold, but I feel it's no good retiring with a decent income if you are faced with a life of ill-health. Surely we all want the best possible quality of life to continue to the end of our days? More importantly the last thing I want is to be a “sick” burden to my family. They're busy enough without having to tend to me. So I want to do everything I can to stay healthy in retirement.

The Health Risks of Retirement

When you retire, your initial relief from the day-to-day hustle and bustle can mean it's easy to slip into a life of inactivity, slumped in front of the TV, sleeping until noon, because you have nothing planned, and feel you no longer have any purpose in life.

In the first flush of freedom from work commitments, a week or so of this is understandable. But it's all too easy to let it become a way of life, and before you know it your lack of interests and activity can send you down an unhealthy path – both mentally and physically.

My 97 year old Dad worked his socks off (usually at least 12 hours a day, 363 days of the year) and never had a day of ill-health, until the day he retired (from his main work, he still has another business but that takes little involvement from him). ‘Freed' from his day to day involvement, his motivation and happiness declined rapidly. While he's still physically far healthier than many 97 year olds, sadly he's depressed and lost most of his previous motivation and enjoyment in life, with nothing he looks forward to doing expect watch sport on TV.

So the sooner you start planning to prevent this decline, the better – before you slide into a life of idleness and boredom. In fact, as you'll hopefully already have been doing your retirement income planning, it's best to start your retirement health planning well before you set your retirement date. That way you will already have interests and hobbies that you're looking forward to spending more time on. What a shame that some people dread the thought of retirement, instead of looking forward to a new chapter in their lives.

How Many Years Will You Be Retired?

I'm in my 60s and my Mum lived until her early 90s; Dad is still plodding on (although very frail now) at 97. Barring accidents, I seem to have longevity in the genes (my maternal grandparents also lived until their 90s).

But it's not as simple as looking at family members, because there are many other factors to consider. According to a very interesting article on the subject:

Most people can be fairly sure their retirement will last 10 years, but probably won't last 30 unless you retire very young or benefit from abnormally good health and lifestyle.

Source – Forbes

But whatever the number of years you are retired, it makes sense to consider how you will…

Stay Healthy in Retirement

I was never one to take any enjoyment in sport or any physical activity at school, so my family and friends are now amazed at how active I am in retirement. And it's all because I combine my physical and mental health efforts into one enjoyable activity – line-dancing, which I do three or more times almost every week.

Don't dismiss it out of hand, as I almost did.

The Benefits of Line-dancing

  • It's brilliant exercise, watch the video below to see one of my current favourite dances
  • Keeps you thinking as you learn the different routines (believe it or not there are hundreds  of dances old and new)
  • Classes and social events are very reasonably priced, so won't break the bank
  • Water is the drink of choice for many dancers, but no-one will frown on beer, cider etc to quench the inevitable thirst if you're a non-driver – so again, a cheap night out
  • You meet like-minded, friendly people. Last year I moved from London to Norwich where I knew no-one except my son and his wife (who are very busy). People said I was crazy leaving my friends in London behind. But I knew that if there was a line-dancing class nearby I'd find new friends fast. A year on, I have a far more active social life than I did in London.
  • If you find it a challenge at first (I did) most experienced dancers are generous enough to remember their own early fumbling steps and be patient and helpful. If they're not, don't hesitate to move onto another class.
  • No need to buy expensive equipment (like my fancy boots shown here!) but do wear shoes with closed in toes and heels (not strappy, plenty of support). Try a few of your own shoes before you decide to purchase special dance shoes. They're non-essential for beginners. As you'll see from the video below, clothes can be very casual to start with, then add sparkles when and if the occasion calls for it.
  • For those of us who have outlasted their life-partner, another advantage is that you don't need a dance-partner. Oh, and funnily enough I find that men are often better at line-dancing than women 🙂

But don't just take my word for the benefits of line-dancing, this article in the UK Daily Mail reports that line dancing is better than a walk to fight Alzheimer's

Example Linedances

Here's one of the first lindances people ever learn….

If you don't like country music, linedancing can be done to many different styles of music (even waltz and tango), and the dances certainly needn't be as basic as the “Electric Slide” above.

This is my current favorite linedance (December 2019), but it's not one for beginners.

Thanks to all the above video owners, performers and dance choreographers. I'm not in any of the videos and have no rights to anything, other than those YouTube grants me to entertain you.

So Will You Try Linedancing To Stay Healthy In Retirement?

It's not for everyone, BUT before I was introduced to it by friends I would never have dreamed of trying it. Twelve or so years ago, a new group of friends encouraged me through my initial weeks of tripping up over my own feet, and now I'm as addicted as they are.

So do give it a try and allow yourself time to get the hang of it. If a ‘two-left-footer' like me can do it, anyone can.

Find a Linedance Class

As well as using Google and the usual local resources to find a linedance class, you'll often find linedance classes on cruise ships. These are a gentle introduction without regular commitment and great fun – although I do get irritated when they teach incorrectly. Because if you later go to a proper class thinking you know a dance, it's a bit of a blow to discover you've not learned the proper steps.

Nevertheless, as a fun way to take exercise and keep your mind active too, I heartily recommend linedancing as an excellent way to stay healthy in retirement.