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.

Showing posts with label Facts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Facts. Show all posts

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Brain Training

We all read those scare stories suggesting that if you dare to retire then, without the intellectual stimulation that work brings, your brain will quickly turn to mush. Consequently I know people who diligently don't move from the breakfast table until they have at least had a good stab at completing the daily crossword or won't travel without a compendium of sudoku puzzles or brain training programmes. Whilst I enjoy the challenge of  both crosswords and sudoku, to my chagrin they do not figure in my daily routine and I have been known to express fleeting concern that my mental capacity could be diminishing, without the constant taxing and testing that professional life brings. 

I am therefore little short of euphoric to have learnt this week of a report from the Global Council on Brain Health that effectively dismisses the health benefits of puzzles and mind games. Instead the Council's report concludes that whilst we can have an impact on how our brains change as we age, the best activities to enhance a person's cognitive reserve involve activities that we find enjoyable and challenging, that encourage social engagement and teach new skills. The examples given by the report include learning tai chi, practising yoga (tick), taking a photography class (phew I did that one recently), investigating your genealogy (one of my favourite pastimes), juggling (humph), cooking (tick), gardening (tick), learning a language (tick) or musical instrument (others would not forgive me if I tried this with my lack of musical talent), creative writing and making art (tick), volunteering (big tick).

Indeed the report specifically emphasises the benefit of activities involving both physical and mental engagement and gives the examples of dancing and tennis. It accords exactly with the wise words spoken by my Zumba instructor who insists that the expenditure of energy during her class is incidental to the benefits to the brain as the blood flows to the head and we seek to memorise her routines, struggling to follow her footsteps.

However within the report are words of warning for the retired person. The study showed that cognitive decline (potentially leading to dementia or other conditions associated with ageing) can accelerate when people stop work if by retiring they cease to participate in cognitively stimulating activities.

The conclusions drawn from the report are accordingly that the benefits of what most people consider as brain training games are weak to non-existent and that instead we should find new ways to stimulate the brain and challenge how we think. We should choose activities that involve both mental engagement and physical activity and even better if they also incorporate social engagement and an altruistic purpose such as volunteering or mentoring.

Based on my retirement activity to date, it is a relief to know that I am potentially postponing the onset of dementia for a few years yet. Moreover by remaining mentally active and continuing to learn, the effect may even be prolonged for the whole of my lifespan. I'm not sure if I'll still be doing Zumba at 85, of course, but maybe at that stage the family will forgive me if I do decide to learn to play the trumpet instead.


Monday, 10 April 2017

Perfume and Age

One of the benefits of attending exercise classes regularly is not the highly toned body that could result but rather the ready made group of like-minded people with whom you can share the pleasures of drinking and dining. This doesn't so much undermine the good work put in at the exercise studio but rather ensures that you return for more and work even harder to save spent calories for another meal out.

I can honestly say that I did not know any of my new found gym buddies prior to retiring and yet now they are one of the mainstays of my social life (well we all like food). They are also a source of encyclopedic knowledge, saving me hours of online research. 

For instance last Friday, the sun beating down as Spring very definitely arrived, we rounded off a hard week of Pilates, Fitball, Body Blitz, Yoga, Kinesis Hiit and Barre Concept with a short swim and a long laze in the outdoor hot tub. There then followed a quick stroll to a nearby hostelry where we discussed the topics of the day and put the world to rights.

Now for some time recently I have been aware that I am becoming somewhat indulgent with the bottled fragrances in my bathroom. I couldn't pinpoint the reason but Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum and even the highly powerful real stuff in the little bottles, once applied, just doesn't seem to hold its scent anymore. Of course that's not something I'd necessarily share, even with a gym bunny, but, to my surprise, it came up in conversation. What is more, I am certain that they hadn't sniffed out this issue on my part.

"Age and changing hormones," one lady declared.

"Fix it by applying Vaseline first," another responded.

Well it is certainly reassuring to know that I am not the only person to encounter this phenomenon. I confess that I even googled it afterwards and the underlying factor seems to be dry skin; a symptom of hormones and ageing, of course. I told you: those ladies have encyclopedic knowledge! 


Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Perception of Time

The end of another week and I can hardly believe that it's just over a week since we returned from London and less than a month since we spent a week in the Lake District

When I was really busy at work, time seemed to fly.  So much so that I could never quite believe, when, for instance, the dentist sent me a reminder for an annual check-up, that a whole year had passed since the last appointment; it seemed like yesterday. Now every day seems to have so much activity crammed into it that time stretches out behind me and I'm actually surprised that events took place only a matter of weeks ago, instead of months.

The changing perspective on time is, of course, a welcome one. I understand that the variety in my activities and lack of  a recognisable routine may account for this change, compared to the previous decades when the humdrum nature of work dominated. Whether the perception has a scientific basis or not I was unsure. After all I don't think Albert Einstein was thinking about activity in retirement when he published his Theory of Special Relativity, even though he did recognise that time runs at different rates for different observers travelling at different speeds.

I was also aware that current scientific theory increasingly asks if there is really such a thing as time or is it an illusion? However, a little more digging uncovered the fact that research in the field of neuroscience has  discovered cells within the human body responsible for governing the way we each perceive the passing of time. It is suggested therefore that time is indeed a subjective experience measured by each individual's own perception of the duration of  events.

There is a scientific basis for the slow time phenomenon that I am experiencing! 

Sadly, however, experiments conducted have suggested that it is as you grow older that you generally experience time passing more quickly.  I am, therefore, grateful that not only has retirement  not yet slowed me down, but the cellular structures within (at least for the moment) seem to think the passage of time has diminished rather than increased in speed.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Great Dream

I have just discovered the Action for Happiness' website. Reading its pages has to bring a smile to anyone's face. However the page that caught my attention is labelled 10 Keys and on it are set out ten keys to happiness.

I can't believe that since retiring I have been on a journey of self discovery in which I have succeeded in identifying almost all those aspects of life; instead all I needed to have done was to read this website! Still now that I have found it, I am delighted to note that I have been on the right track all along, no wonder retirement is proceeding so happily!

The Action for Happiness whose patron is the Dalai Lama has an impressive Board of Directors committed to helping people take practical steps for a happier and more caring world. In so doing, and using Great Dream as an acronym, we learn from them that:

 Giving or doing things for others makes us feel better too. I sense more commitment to my voluntary causes, family and friends coming on already.

 Relating or connecting with people. Oh yes, I'll take any excuse to socialise!

 Exercising or taking care of your body which sounds like another excuse to fit in an extra trip to the gym or fitness class with more opportunity to socialise when doing so too.

 Appreciating by noticing the world around you; a favourite theme of mine now when I am out and about.

 Trying out or learning new things. You don't really want a list of all the Future Learn courses I have now completed do you?

 Direction or having goals to look forward to. I wonder if my bucket lists count? Ticking off lists certainly  makes me happy!

 Resilience or finding ways to bounce back. Inbuilt stoicism, it's all part of the British psyche I'm sure; maybe it's attributable to all that rain.

 Emotion or taking a positive approach. Why it was only last week I was blogging about positivity!

 Acceptance essentially of yourself and being comfortable with who you are. Sometimes a difficult one and frequently the borderline between happiness and depression. As you edge into retirement, however, age, wisdom and most of all confidence should see you okay on this score.

 Meaning or being part of something bigger. That old chestnut, the meaning of life or how to be happy and for which we come full-circle. However and if anyone needs any ideas I can commend volunteering with Save the Children.

As the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, "Happiness is not something that is ready made. It comes from your own actions."

Monday, 8 June 2015


Mister E and I made a trip to Durham last week. It is somewhere that I have visited frequently throughout my life, but this was the first occasion on which I have used the Park and Ride facility. As retirement is the time for new experiences, instead of heading into the City to trawl the multi storey car-parks for a space charged by the hour, we parked the car in a spacious outdoor facility adjacent to the motorway from where we were able to head into the centre by bus. Amazingly there was no charge for parking and whilst there is a fee for the bus ride, Mister E who holds a senior citizen's bus pass (I am still too young and as the age for eligibility keeps being postponed may never  qualify) was even exempt from this. 

All in all we found the process most convenient and will not hesitate to make use of it again. 

Although next time I shall make a much better effort at remembering where I have placed the return bus ticket and so spare myself the embarrassment of unpacking my handbag in public view.

Living in the countryside and driving a car, I rarely travel by bus and indeed associate such with hopper facilities at airports. As a result entering Durham on one almost conjured up the excitement of a holiday although fortunately I had left my luggage behind.

Tourists were certainly the dominant traffic along the narrow pedestrianised streets and, as the sun was shining, ice-creams and strappy tops were on display in both the Market Square and on Palace Green. 

Our purpose was to view the Magna Carta on display in a special exhibition timed to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the original by the King and Barons at Runnymede in 1215.

The copy held by Durham Cathedral is actually of the later 1216 version of the Charter which was signed on behalf of King John's successor, his son Henry III, the original having been declared null and void by the Pope shortly after its completion. It may be a year younger but its condition was amazing; it was almost impossible to believe the age of either the vellum or ink. More surprising was its size which was nowhere near as large as I had imagined, although the 1216 version did omit a number of clauses that were in the original. Of course, I could not read any of it, in light of the stylised script and the Latin shorthand used.

The Exhibition itself which runs until the end of August is entitled "Magna Carta and the Changing Face of Revolt." It tells the history of the right of the individual to speak out and act against authority and raises the question whether the common good can justify rebellion. Leaving the exhibition all visitors are asked to post a plastic token to indicate what they might consider protesting about; restrictions on privacy and free speech seemed to be winning the day, although four content or alternatively cowardly souls had placed their voting tokens in the receptacle marked: "I would never protest."

Life has certainly come a long way since those Barons sought to extract for themselves and other free men what we might consider as very basic human rights. However, they started a process which has endured throughout the centuries of a balance between rebellion and political engagement. I am certainly grateful to  be able to have attained and enjoy a retirement in which I can exploit the many freedoms that those who came before me agitated, protested, and made sacrifices to achieve.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Five Extra Years

When you go to the gym and then wake up the next day with aches in muscles that you didn't know you had, there are inevitably occasions when you wonder if exercising is as good for you as it is made out to be. Indeed my worst ever injury resulting in breaks to my ankle, tibia and fibula, took place whilst playing sport, albeit many years ago.

However, information published recently in the British Journal of Sports Science suggests that, even in men aged 73, thirty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day will extend life expectancy by five years.

Get in there, my fitness craze is continuing.

Friday, 27 March 2015

On Your Feet

On Your Feet Britain is an event taking place on 24th April as a result of a partnership between the British Heart Foundation and the Get Britain Standing Campaign. Inactivity is one of the greatest challenges to health in Britain today and it seems the sedentary lifestyle of the country's office workers leads the way.

Statistics suggest that 37% of men and 45% of women spend less than 30 minutes a day on their feet at work, with 50% eating their lunch at their desk. Yes it all sounds familiar.

However it is reckoned that over 5 pounds in weight can be lost by standing up for an extra 30 minutes a day for a year. Goodness me, here in retirement I reckon that I have been standing up for at least an extra 2 hours a day, frequently more; will that equate to 20 pounds? If so, unfortunately not an awful lot has happened yet!

Studies have linked heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and cancer to sedentary lifestyles. Forget the office, it's even more important that retirement isn't spent sitting down or over-eating!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Dentist Calls

I received a telephone call the other night at 9pm from the dentist. Of course, I thought he only worked 9am until 5pm. In theory he does but, and I can guarantee that this sounds familiar to so many people, especially those who run their own businesses or have professional obligations: he was catching up with administration before he leaves on holiday.

Oh dear, I remember those demonic days far too clearly.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Esteemed Company

Well how's that for esteemed company? Two famous sportsmen announced their own retirements today, meaning that in years to come I shall be able to say that I retired the same summer as Jonny Wilkinson and Ryan Giggs.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Retired and Immune to Harm from Coffee

Thumbing through Mister E's monthly  magazine from his engineering institute, I noticed an article reporting the outcome of research at the Universities of South Carolina and Queensland in relation to the consumption of coffee. Apparently it's none too good for you if you're under 55 and drink more than 28 cups a week.
It seems, however, that once you are 55 there's no longer a significant increase in mortality rates, regardless of how much coffee you drink.
So now I know why the numerous coffee shops in the high street of our local town are frequented by retirees and clearly I'm going to be able to join them with impunity.