One of the life skills areas identified through focus group discussions with today’s octogenarians was the importance of keeping as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
You would be exceptional if you made it through 80 years without any health issues, all of our focus groups had at least some concerns. Those considered ‘successful’ by their peers were the people who were not those in perfect health, but those able to manage their conditions in such a way that they did not adversely affect their enjoyment of life and their interaction with others.
However, in a recent report Public Health England revealed that, on average, UK pensioners will today spend all their retirement in ill health as medical advances to reduce non-lethal and chronic illnesses have not progressed at the same pace as growing life expectancy. Over the medium term, with the real value of pensions diminishing before disappearing, we face the prospect of trying to hold down a job while suffering from these chronic conditions.
Our solution is to raise awareness early so that long before you reach retirement the good practice of maintaining health – with all its implications – has become second nature.
The biggest regret express by focus group members was voiced by those suffering from what could be described as ‘self inflicted’ or ‘avoidable’ ill health. Smoking, drinking too much, over eating, the long-term effect of drug taking all showed up in later life with unwelcome consequences.
Sports injuries were a different category, playing sport at a high level often puts exceptional strain on parts of the body and may result in replacement joints such as knees and hips. While the pain and discomfort they caused affected quality of life and required replacement surgery, they can be fixed and quality of life restored.
The central message is that, whatever your age, looking after your health pays dividends – our bodies are needed for much longer than we may have thought!