Planet Retirement can sometimes be a bewildering place and with a scarcity of UK retirement blogs out there (other than those proffering financial advice) I thought I'd keep my own.

Please visit from time to time and do add your comments. Popular posts and those highlighting my journey are specifically pinpointed on the right hand side together with a list of topics covered. Alternatively you may prefer to look at the Summary or the Tips from Wisdom Acquired or even our Have Visited List with its retirement atlas and dip in and out of the blog using the links given.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Voice of New Retirement

Voice of New Retirement is a report from Aviva and one of its key findings is just how happy retired people are. Well I'm living proof so I can certainly agree with that one. In fact retirement is so good that 62% find it better than they expected (or perhaps they just had low expectations!).

The report suggests that happiness and fulfilment peak in later life and that those who are retired find greater contentment with their finances, health, diet, exercise and time spent with their family. Yes, I think that this blog can bear witness to all of that too.

So there has to be a downside before everyone hands in their notice and joins the great retirement bandwagon and I'm sorry but the report addresses this as well. It's preparation or rather a lack of it. Alarmingly 27% of people nearing retirement have done nothing to prepare for it, financially or otherwise. Now that is distressing, those people are going to let themselves down in a really big way if they too can't enjoy their own golden era.

I was just thinking the other day that what I really love about retirement is the freedom it gives me to live each day as I choose (to be frank it was an idea that dawned on me when I elected to lie in bed until after 11am, but hey a happy retiree needs her thinking time). Lo this report confirms that retirement is invariably seen as a liberating experience where the number of retired people who feel in complete control of their lives is more than double the number of those who are still working. Fulfilment is high in retirement and at its lowest in our forties, although those approaching retirement have a boost of optimism as they presumably feel the time to achieve life's ambitions is approaching. However those who get the most enjoyment from retirement seem, according to the report, to be those who have planned for it, not just financially but also with their bucket lists or other plans. The report makes it clear that as well as financial planning, would-be retirees need to consider plans for their lifestyle, their needs and their goals.

I certainly haven't found the transition into retirement difficult but as regular readers of this blog will know I did plan for it and please, if you haven't yet started, you must do so now or you could miss out on a great big chunk of later life happiness.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

In Retirement We Are all Important

In my pre-retirement life, being ill would have meant a need to catch up at work on recovery. So much so that getting out of one's sick bed and returning to the desk went hand in hand without any thought for rehabilitation That is not of course the case any more. Instead and in retirement the recuperative phase where you stay in and keep warm has been a splendid opportunity to catch up with Future Learn courses that had slipped during our recent trip to Switzerland. 

Strategies for Successful Ageing from the University of Dublin is the name of one such course and there must be something about being ill because looking at pictures, in this case infographics, is always therapeutic. I have been dazzled by the statistics on ageing. It seems that the Boomer generation continues to be aptly named even in retirement, when you realise just how many members it has and how old they are all going to be very shortly.

The great thing about being retired is not only does your mind wander and begin to dwell on abstract concepts like the meaning of life but you also start to wonder just how infinite humankind's occupation of Planet Earth is, when you see statistics like this. Fortunately even with my limited capacity for mathematics, I think I can calculate that it will at least continue beyond the realms of the Baby Boomers and my own lifespan.

Already there is much talk about living and working longer and with governments driving back the age for state pensions, early retirement is no longer the favoured option that it once was. Indeed early retirement tomorrow may well mean something very different to the same term when used ten years ago.

Of course so many older people are healthier than previous generations at their age. Work can be less arduous than it was with opportunities for part-time and flexible hours, and there may well be an attraction in continuing to earn for longer, albeit on a part-time basis. Society too depends greatly on these older people for their contributions to the voluntary sector; without the over sixties, the average charity shop in this country would go unstaffed and who would deliver Meals on Wheels or Audio Books for the Blind?

It is easy to look at the prospect of a burgeoning older population as a concern rather than an asset. In truth, it is an opportunity to harness the time, wisdom, experience and energy that they can bring to the table. Where once English towns and villages relied on the stereotypical housewife to organise the annual fete, run the local branch of the WI and collect the children from school, now and into the future such administration will fall on Grandma.

Female Boomers may have burnt their bras in the sixties as they fought for equality in the workplace. Now male and female members of the same generation are going to carve a new niche for their retirement years and the modern world needs them like never before. I may soon be only one of  over 2 billion people but I feel important and can see my role! 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Virus Stricken

I know there is an increasing trend to live our lives online, bonding with and being consumed by technology to an extent never previously thought possible. I don't like it and have tried to wean myself off the iPad and Smartphone, concerned at an increasing habit of checking them perhaps as much as hourly. Imagine my surprise, therefore, to learn that looking at them 12 to 15 times a day isn't really a problem, let alone an addiction. The generation to which my children belong, apparently needs to check their screens at least ten times that level on an average day!

That sci fi future we used to read about when we were young has finally caught up with us and the blur between man and machine is happening.

On my return from Switzerland, imagine therefore my frustration to find my desk top computer invaded by not one virus but several, each transmogrifying into something more sinister, revelling in such dubious and threatening names as Palikan, DNS.Unlocker, and Reimager.  The post-capitalism nightmare: a computer invaded by thousands of adverts.

Worse still the boundaries between human and machine became indistinct when I too began to suffer and, for the second time this winter, took to my bed with a variant of flu. No anti-malware, rebooting or re-installations for me, just time-proven bed rest.

In truth  the two cannot be linked (at least I hope not) but in both cases I have learned that prevention is better than cure. No more dodgy downloads or clicking on suspicious links and first in the queue next October for the flu vaccine. Retirement is too precious to waste fighting viruses that are best avoided where possible.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Swiss Train Journey

Now I am no railway buff but can there be a better way to travel around Switzerland than by train? With cog and funicular systems linking to the main valley lines, it is possible to board a train in Geneva and travel up and into the mountains. Mister E and I purchased flexi pass tickets before we left the UK enabling us to travel on trains, buses, and boats on four days in any thirty. Services are frequent, reliable and, save at peak times, uncrowded. The scenery is magnificent.

We travelled alongside Lake Geneva and then climbed gradually through the Rhone Valley to Visp where we transferred to the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn, ascending past avalanches and ever deepening snow to Zermatt. 

There we emerged into the square outside the station where small electric taxis and horse and carriages wait to pick up hotel guests.

From the village the railway lines rise higher still on the Gornergrat Bahn, a popular tourist ride and also an alternative route up and down the mountains for skiers.

Our appetite for rail travel unsatiated, we transferred from Zermatt to the Bernese Oberland and Wengen, travelling on six trains to do so. Connections were never more than a few minutes apart and all ran together seamlessly. Again the views as we scaled ever upwards on the cog railway were tremendous.

As in Zermatt the railway line is an integral part of the transport system for skiers, climbing to Kleine Scheidegg which is reminiscent of something from the wild west; a one horse town with timber structures. It is also from there that, beneath the towering peaks of the Eiger and Monch, the Jungfraujoch Bahn sets off to the "Top of Europe" or at least its highest railway station at 3,454 metres above sea level.

Maybe we were getting a little bored with conventional and cog rail travel, but on moving to Crans Montana, we left the train at Sierre/Siders (that two named town, where the French and German languages collide) and boarded the funicular instead. It whisked us from the valley bottom to the mountain resort in 12 minutes.

It was another journey that was worth taking just to drink in the views, especially from the top.

Sadly back at home, the East Coast Mainline's scenery just can't compete.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Downhill All the Way

Call it stupidity, madness or a desire to self-destruct but, notwithstanding degeneration in the knees, a rotar cuff impediment and, of course, that sprained ankle, I have been skiing. Moreover it was only a year ago that I finally disposed of my long loved but rather worn ski boots, after resolving that my skiing days were over. 

I last skied at Christmas in 2013 and I guess it's like riding a bike, you don't forget, even if the risk of breaking bones when you fall potentially increases. Fortunately in my case I am pleased to report that rather than crack, I still bounce!

Getting back to the top of a chairlift in the crisp mountain air is truly invigorating but moving down the slope at speed (even if I was bringing up the rear of our party) was absolutely exhilarating. Two turns and my nervousness had almost dissipated. Four days and my right knee was wobbling along in a brace, screaming with pain and asking to be rested.

Yes, Mister E and I can no longer ski for as long as we used to; we were far more particular about the weather we went out in and the slopes we skied down. Indeed to observe us on the slopes you could quite correctly say that we were going downhill in more ways than one. The great thing though is that whilst we spoilt ourselves with a few days in Zermatt, which for many years has been one of if not our favourite ski resort, we are now equally satisfied by destinations catering primarily for beginners and intermediates. In fact if I can keep this up until I am ninety, I shall no doubt be happy with a tractor tow in the back garden.

Hiring ski-boots was always an horrific experience as a beginner; the pain is sufficient to put many people off ever venturing onto the slopes again. Things haven't improved and if anything spoilt the trip it was the friction burns and blisters caused by a pair of ill-fitting boots on the first day. Common-sense tells me that if I am to return to the Alps every year then it must be on the basis that I first acquire a new pair of  boots and this is where the dilemma sets in. My heart happily skips a beat as the thought of the adrenalin surge descending the piste. My head tells me that the risk of serious damage to my knees is high and that it is ridiculous to consider repeating the experience let alone buying my own boots to do so.

So which will win? Head or heart? I guess we'll have to wait until the 2016/17 season to decide that one.