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 Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Lower Back Pain

Episodes of lower back pain apparently affect most people at some point from middle age. How to alleviate them has been a matter of historical dispute by experts and I noticed that both today and yesterday the Guardian published articles about a series of reports in The Lancet. The consensus seems to be that bed rest and medical intervention are unhelpful and that sufferers should keep exercising.

It all reminded me of one of our conversations this week at the gym before consecutive Barre and Yoga sessions. Several classmates hobbled in, others rubbed painful joints and we were all full of the woes that aches and pains bring. The level of torment varied from individual to individual but we were as one in our belief that a little exertion and some stretching would cure the problem. Of course there's no such thing as  a miracle remedy and I'd be lying if I said that everyone skipped out of the door and home, twinge free.

The great thing about being a believer though is that we were all there again this morning, ready to be put through our paces once more. I am full of admiration for the lovely ladies that I exercise with, many well into retirement, and all anxious to build or maintain a strong core not so that they will look good in a beach bikini but rather to assure fitness into old age. 

Routine tasks like bending over to fasten a shoe lace, getting up from a chair, climbing in and out of the bath all require the use of core muscles. Lifting, twisting, cleaning and even sitting need them too. Core strength can prevent the debilitating effects of lower back pain, aid balance and reduce falling. We all need it, regardless of whether or not we aspire to continue to swim, walk or play sport into our nineties .

Exercise of one sort or another is probably one of the most sociable activities to undertake in retirement and yes, we did all go out for lunch afterwards today.

Friday, 16 March 2018

A Present from the State

There was a time, not so very long ago, when a woman's 60th birthday invariably coincided with not only retirement but also receipt of a state pension and bus pass. How quickly things have changed and, in my own case, it will now be another six years before those gifts are endowed.

That is not to say that the Government overlooks you entirely at 60 and for many it is the day they can finally forget about the notional prescription charge levied by the NHS here in England. Alternatively, as in my case, that is of limited significance if you are already exempt as a result of a medical condition or means testing.

Imagine therefore my astonishment to receive an official letter from the NHS posted on my actual birthday. How can anyone accuse it of inefficiency when its computer system is so finely tuned? 

WARNING: Anyone who has not yet attained the age of 60 years and doesn't want their own NHS birthday surprise spoiling should stop reading now.

So what exactly does the  National Health Service gift you for reaching 60? Bowel cancer screening and yes, I shall be taking advantage.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Back in Circulation

 So today turned out to be my big day and after two weeks in the grip of an influenza like illness (as I've seen Australian flu defined) I finally returned to the gym. When working it was accepted practice to attempt to struggle on regardless and when you did succumb to a virus, to return prematurely often causing what seemed to be a resurgence or lingering of symptoms. That said, the company of others, a change of scene and an assignment to task the brain can work wonders at uplifting the spirit.

In retirement, however, it is  easy to cosset yourself at home, break all contact with humanity and allow yourself to be nurtured slowly back to health. The trouble is staying in and warm, can become somewhat tedious after a time. Further, woe betide, if you allow yourself to fall into the trap of thinking that the older you get the longer these things take to shake off. With that mindset, I could stay in bed for months.

So a little like returning to work, I decided to throw myself back in at the deep end and to do three fitness classes this morning. As a result I talked to any number of people, smiled, laughed and got out of the sickness rut. It wasn't easy and on several occasions I thought the dreaded fever was returning, whereas  in reality whilst I was circulating with colleagues, my heart too was pumping overtime to get oxygenated blood circulating around my body and to recently unused muscles.

Consequently I returned home a trifle flushed, very tired but resolute in my determination to return tomorrow.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Having a Wobble

One thing I hadn't anticipated experiencing in the early stages of retirement was the wobbling phenomenon. It's not so much a gait issue as the realisation that when I try to balance, especially on one leg (as you do) I no longer feel steady. Now, all things considered this could be an age-related issue, but after experiencing a marked and rapid decline in my ability to hold a yoga pose or even stand on tip-toes, coupled with increasing pain in my knees and feet when I undertake bouts of sustained exercise I decided it was time to take professional advice. 

Amazingly my doctor did not dismiss it as a symptom of ageing or even a vivid imagination. Instead she referred me to a consultant to take another look at the degeneration in the knees which is of course common as we hit middle age and beyond, ably assisted in my case by too many pulls and strains whilst skiing. Reassuring me that I am not even on the cusp of requiring knee surgery whilst prescribing some seriously effective painkillers/anti-inflammatories, the consultant in turn referred me to a physiotherapist.

Her initial diagnosis four weeks ago was that  whilst my glutes, quads and hamstrings are all playing their required roles, seriously tight calf muscles are having a deleterious effect. I was duly handed a rubber exercise band and a list of exercises to undertake at home, with a promise to keep up my gym work-outs and classes. Apparently, there's no such thing as too much exercise.

A month later, I can honestly say that steadiness is returning and I returned for a physiotherapy review today. The tightness is disappearing and now centres on the achilles tendon rather than the hamstrings. I have been given more exercises and assured that whilst the degeneration in the knees is irreversible, there is absolutely no reason why balance mode cannot be restored. 

It seems the cause has nothing whatsoever to do with age but rather insufficent stretching out after exercising! Oh la la, my days in the gym are not yet ending and nor is a wheelchair beckoning.

The battle for fitness continues ....

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Giving Up with Household Dirt

Continuing with the quest to live more simply and clear home and life of extraneous matter including plastics, I have been looking to wind down reliance on all those bottles of household cleaners. It's also better for both the  environment and potentially our health.

I can hardly claim to be the most house-proud of women, hating the time wasted on cleaning with a vengeance but anti bacterial sprays, window cleaners and stain removers in spray bottles have on occasions allowed me to go trigger happy. However well they buff and shine, they are not risk-free with links to respiratory problems, skin irritations and in extreme cases it is alleged chronic or long-term illnesses including potentially cancer.

In search of a solution I have therefore taken up the use of white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and even lemons instead. Moreover, and without a plastic bottle or trigger in sight, they do pretty much the same job, naturally at half the cost and with significantly less harm.

The various application of these three ingredients is widely documented across the Internet (just put "natural household cleaners"into your search engine). I certainly recommend trying vinegar to clean your windows (inside and out). White vinegar almost avoids the fish and chip shop perfume and it dissipates quickly in any event. Bicarbonate of soda works better than any proprietary stain remover ever has for me; dab a small amount onto a cloth and rub well. Finally when we have used the juice from a lemon in cooking, I rub the remaining squeezed fruit across the tiled splashback behind the cooker and the grease spots disappear instantly.

The house is sparkling and there is once again space in my utility room cupboards for cloths and dusters where previously there was an array of bottles containing noxious chemicals masked by false floral fragrances.

I'd like to say it is emancipating but I'm still looking for a substitute for the effort required from elbow grease. Liberty was never intended to chain us to the kitchen sink, and it is definitely not where I want to spend my retirement.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Use It or Lose It

There seems to be a general acceptance that as we age, we grow weaker and frailer. Indeed research suggests that it is not uncommon for us to lose up to 8% of our muscle mass each decade from the age of 30. Try telling that to the trainer at the gym who has just re-set my new workout programme and now has little me lifting 10 kgs. 

"It will get easier," he has promised. Although to be honest I am more persuaded by his intimation that it will change my body shape. Who says you can't develop abs after 50?

National guidelines on physical activity recommend that, in order to stay healthy, adults should undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week as well as strength exercises on at least two days a week. However, a report published by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists last week, concludes from a survey it commissioned that almost a quarter of over 65's do no strengthening activities at all, leaving them prone to the risk of falls and ill-health. Moreover 34% of those approaching retirement (aged 55-64) miss the target too.

Bearing in mind that the Society suggests that gardening and carrying shopping bags help to keep us in shape, it is hard to understand why so many are failing to meet the criteria set out in the guidelines. If there was ever a time to switch from buying cuppa soup and tea bags to potatoes and two litre bottles of milk, it is clearly in retirement.

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, 31 July 2017

Off Colour

I was not myself at all yesterday, struck down, I suspect, by a mild dose of food poisoning. No appetite, a painful tummy ache, totally overcome by fatigue with weak joints and an unending wave of nausea, I took to my bed. Safe in its confines, I listened first to the stomach fire brigade spray its hoses of bile on the malcontented and noisy dragon beneath and then waited patiently whilst the sewage cleaning operators in the intestine did their work. In the meantime the extremities resembled the polar ice cap as I shivered my way through the day.

At least in retirement there is no longer any pressure to drag yourself out of bed to fulfil commitments in an office diary. However, yesterday was a Sunday so I didn't even have that thought as solace for my condition.

 It is unpleasant being out of sorts but (touch wood) I am fortunate in generally enjoying good health.

As we age, however, I know that it may not always be so. Already wear and tear on vital knee joints, not to mention bursitis and tendonitis can at the least be irritating. Maybe the underlying conditions were always there, certainly old skiing pulls and strains are chief suspects, but it seems only now through attempts at a more physical lifestyle in retirement that they are coming to the fore. 

Certainly there is much to be said for recognising your limitations even when it is sad to have to acknowledge them and  realise that there are some things that it's just not wise to do anymore. Moving on through retirement, reality begins to catch up. 

With reality comes an understanding that life is no longer infinite and time has run out for me for marathon running, mountain climbing, bungee jumping and a host of other activities that I'm sure I really would never have tried anyway. You will note that I am not yet excusing my partaking of the activities that bring enjoyment. However, that knowledge of the finite can make it seem that the pressure is on to fit in everything  that you want to do, before infirmity creeps up still further.

I guess that's where continuous planning and the much berated bucket list come in. To stop retirement dreams becoming unachievable or giving way to the dreaded drudgery of routine, regular reviews, flexibility and in some instances lateral thinking are needed. 

Forgive me, I'm now off to undertake a rational assessment...

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Nectar or Not

Some people love Marmite. Mister E is one of them. Unfortunately I have only once managed to get past the smell in order to taste it and let's say that I was singularly unimpressed. If you have to consume it to be a vegan, no wonder I'm sticking to meat and dairy products.

Of course I understand that  some people suffer Marmageddon moments when there is no jar in the house or Tesco falls out with its supplier and they struggle to even buy the stuff. On my part, however, it haunts  my life. I despise the stuff but am forever running into jars in  my kitchen. I hate the way it sticks to the knife that I invariably find myself washing to put away, or the way it seems to dribble down the side of the jar that I want to put back in the cupboard.

Now I know its reputedly eco friendly, made locally from brewers' yeast and low in calories but still I have never been persuaded to fall for its purported allure.

Today, however, I understand that I could be missing out on important benefits. Research at the University of York appears to suggest that there is an apparent link between eating Marmite and an increase of a chemical messenger associated with healthy brain function. The Daily Telegraph reported the outcome more bluntly indicating that it may boost brain power and stave off dementia.

Wouldn't it be typical if a food item that I find totally unpalatable is the one that could help defeat those senior moments I have been referring to recently and perhaps even help me finish the daily crossword? 

Of course such research is only in its infancy and further studies are required before any benefit in the treatment of dementia can be claimed. In the meantime it will take more than the odd episode of momentary witlessness to get me to volunteer to take a teaspoon a day.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Happy Feet Again

The first couple of weeks of January have been as busy as ever. There have been: a new laptop for the Parish Council to set up (why do these things take so long?); exercise classes to endure or enjoy depending on my daily fitness aptitude and the level of the group; more DIY at the rental property; a new Future Learn course; lunches out and time spent chatting (rather a lot) with family and friends.

Yesterday I was back in volunteering mode, covering not one but two shifts at Save the Children's local high street shop. Well it was short of staff, I had a diary that could be easily altered, so why not? After all seven hours is nothing compared to the daily grind, week after week, month after month, decade after decade that goes with full-time work; at least that is what I thought. 

So, I dressed appropriately in several layers and my comfortable ankle boots to ward off the chills from the open shop door and set off with enthusiasm, ready to meet and greet; sort and stack; clean and steam. Except what I hadn't realised is that, like everything I have been learning to do in retirement, working a whole day takes practice. It may have been less than three years since I last did it, but, not only am I out of practice, those comfortable boots are quite simply excruciatingly painful after just four hours. The heel on them is only an inch high, they have supportive insoles and although I regularly wore them day after day in the office,  I confess that they have hardly donned my feet since. Anyway I kid you not, I felt ninety when we locked the shop at 4.30pm and I left to hobble down the street to my car.

Obviously I ought to have realised that whilst ladies wear all heights of footwear in the office, the reason I now go to Pilates classes three times a week is to try to reclaim the proper alignment of my musculoskeletal system after more than thirty-five years of ill-treatment in the work place. In retirement I take a full hour over lunch, I enjoy a mixture of sitting and standing throughout the day and I generally wear flat, supportive shoes, slipping into heels (even low ones) only for special occasions and where standing is restricted to just short periods at a time. 

Last night, my poor old feet were tended over with a warm bath and copious amounts of foot balm. It was a stark reminder that whilst I may have been able to neglect both them and the rest of my body during my working years, they deserve much better in retirement. I suppose that I have finally learnt that whilst my feet may not be the prettiest, they are the only pair I am ever going to have and ought not, therefore, to be abused. I have now promised them that going forward, and however difficult they are, they will get the love and care that they demand.

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Long Commute

I have been doing a lot of commuting lately. Not that daily drudge but a weekly motorway trip to and from the Midlands as I immerse myself in DIY getting our rental property in Nottingham ready for re-letting. It's been an opportunity to call in on a friend en route, stay in one of our favourite hotels (offering cut price bargain rates in what was clearly a down season before the Christmas revels began in earnest) and brush up on my decorating skills. The intention to blog has always been there but, as on the month long trip to America that preceded this bout of industrial activity, there never seems to have been the time. Just like those old days of daily working and commuting perhaps.

Indeed sitting in the car one Tuesday evening as I sought to escape the city lights along with thousands of other road users, I was captivated by how many people repeat that inescapable journey not once a day but twice. Streams of cars held up by traffic light after traffic light and all jostling for position as two lanes meged into one and then back again. A toxic mix of brake lights and diesel fumes. I lie not, it took 54 minutes to travel 6 miles out of Nottingham and to the motorway!

Was I enraged? Far from it. In fact I convinced myself that in retirement we should all try an awful commute now and again, not to prove that we can still do it but rather to remind ourselves of one of the many joys of retirement: namely the ability to time our journeys to avoid queues.

Needless to say when we stayed there this week we deliberately left much later in the evening and had a quicker if less reflective journey. 

One of my pet hates at the moment though is air pollution. I had not expected to notice such a difference in air quality in the large cities of the USA but walking through Boston, Austin, San Diego and San Antonio those nasty vehicle emissions were hardly noticeable. There was a time when here in the UK people would laugh at a neighbour who chugged out in what was considered a cheap French import,  puffing clouds of exhaust fumes behind them. Then somebody must mistakenly have persuaded the Government that diesel was less harmful to the planet enabling it to be sold as cheap as, if not more cheaply than, petrol. Now almost everyone seems to drive an engine  powered by it, oblivious to the toxic health bomb they are helping to create.

Consider the description of diesel exhaust as taken here from Wikipedia: "Emissions from diesel vehicles have been reported to be significantly more harmful than those from petrol vehicles. Diesel combustion exhaust is a source of atmospheric soot and fine particles, which is a component of the air pollution implicated in human cancer, heart and lung damage, and mental functioning."

I know that in retirement many look to conserve their pounds, drive a smaller car and for less miles. So let's sit down and do the arithmetic. Work out what the premium for the diesel engine over the petrol one is; how many miles we are likely to drive; then the total cost compared to a petrol engine. Next when we know the saving (assuming there is one) add in the risk to our own health and that of everyone else breathing in the nitrogen oxides including the animals that we eat; the cost to and burden on the NHS (just when we approach a time in our lives when we may want to depend on it more often). It is estimated that in London 10,000 deaths a year (23,500 across the UK as a whole) are attributable to air pollution resulting in the Mayor only this week announcing a doubling of funding to try to tackle the crisis.  His announcement followed a report a week ago that Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City plan to ban diesel vehicles by 2025. The world is waking up to the problem, and retirees must too.

If you are still not convinced, take a trip to the USA (paying to offset your carbon footprint of course) and note the difference as you travel its sidewalks. 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Letting Go and Making a Difference

Three months into my third year of retirement and it is good to realise just how far I have come. Reflecting on the period of time that has passed, I can now look  back and recognise three different phases. They are not separate or distinct; the boundary between them ebbs and flows but there is nevertheless an obvious progression.

The early days, weeks and months were a time for healing and recovery. An opportunity to relax and to take the first steps towards a new healthier, fitter self. There may still be some way to go but the pattern has been set.

Gradually and alongside those baby steps from enervation to vigour grew a sense of letting go. Like healing and recovery, it manifests itself on two levels: the physical and the mental. The clutter from both house and mind is being dissipated. Life is simpler; the habits of a working existence have been dropped. Activities and commitments have altered. Although there remains much to clear out especially of a physical kind ( household stuff and clothes with no longer any clear purpose in retirement),  there is now obvious and steady progress. 

A milestone was reached this week when I even made the decision to change the name on my driving licence from the birth name that I used professionally throughout my career to the married name I have always used at home. There are other changes that I know I shall be making in measured and deliberate fashion over the coming months. To let go in the early days felt brave, in Year 3 it is empowering.

Now too I have begun to recognise the dawning of a third phase; the period where I make a difference and which gives the motivation for getting out of bed every day. Whether I am decorating at home or in our rental property; clearing the garden; helping out in the Save the Children shop or campaigning on its behalf; acting as Parish Clerk or as an almshouse trustee; even just cleaning the windows: I am making a difference. To know that I am achieving, that my pursuits are worthwhile and that I can perceive the change as a result, is exciting and a spur for further self-enterprise. 

Life is invigorating and stimulating despite not knowing what the ultimate outcome or next phase will be. After 27 months, retirement is still novel enough that it remains an adventure into the unknown.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Worrying is Over for the Moment

It seems that as we age, we are more likely to suffer from anxiety (a generalised anxiety disorder being the most common diagnosis) than dementia. Cynics amongst us might say that is because we all start to worry about suffering from dementia. I'm not convinced, at least not when I wake in the middle of the night and wonder if the tomatoes are ripening. That  said if moonshine doesn't really mature tomatoes and turn their skins red, it could be dementia itself (rather than a heightened level of concern) that causes ludicrous thoughts at unearthly hours.

Anyway in search of calmness and tranquility away from all the worries that go with raising fruit and vegetables, the youngest and I took ourselves off for an extended day at the gym. A workout and then yoga were followed by an afternoon in the spa. Sauna, hot-tub, steam room, tepidarium, tropicarium, igloo and pool; we emerged relaxed, albeit a littled wrinkled on the fingers from all the water.

Now if you don't believe in the reputed beneficial health effects of a spa, please don't mock because our day clearly produced good karma. Not only did we feel well but, on my foraging trip into the greenhouse this evening, guess what I finally picked to go with the lettuce and cucumber? Yes...ripe red cherry tomatoes!

Sunday, 22 May 2016


I have frequently posted on here about the beauty of the natural world, the time in retirement to appreciate it and the benefits for our well-being in doing so.

With that in mind, I really don't want Spring to slip away without mentioning what a wonderful year it has so far been for bulb displays, culminating in the discovery of bluebell woods far and wide. I even have a very modest display that appears to have naturalised in my own garden. The photograph above was, of course, taken on my visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park last week. (I would hate to mislead anyone into thinking that my own garden is so extensive.)

Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Month of May

May is a month richly endowed with historic traditions. The time of year when maidens washed their faces in dew, whole villages danced around the Maypole, Morris Dancers entertained and superstitions about shedding a layer of clothing or bathing abounded. Our ancestors may have had clean faces from the dew but they firmly believed that if they bathed in May they would soon lie  in clay. 

One assumes therefore that despite the socialising linked to May Fairs the rural populace, yet to bathe after the long harsh winter, must have had a most unappealing scent. 

Times have moved on and whilst May for me has so far been a time for lunching (that great pastime for ladies and retired couples), I'm pleased to say the only scents a wafting, apart from Spring flowers, has been the occasional hint of Chanel No 5 drifting across from an adjacent table.

Luckily I haven't been caught up in ribbon around a Maypole, although I did end up with pads on my eyes imagining them to be slices of raw cucumber on Friday night. Eight similarly aged females all sitting around a friend's dining table, their eyes covered and giggling. It was a little bit like a children's birthday party or even one of those teenage events where somebody has the bright idea of turning an innocent evening into a seance with all little fingers to the upturned glass. On this occasion, however, it was a group facial. Well I did say I wanted to try new experiences in retirement and whilst heaps of face cream was hardly what I had imagined, it certainly brought out the child in us all.

Of course if the packaging can be believed the woman with maturing skin can fight back wrinkles by deep cleansing, toning, using serums, eye contour creams and moisturisers. The downside of course is it took all evening to apply the stuff (mind the bottles of wine in the middle of the table may have played a part in slowing the proceedings whilst the non-stop laughter could only have lengthened the crows' feet around our eyes). Nonetheless I was left wondering how I would ever fit that kind of routine into retirement, not once but twice a day according to the instruction leaflet.

I guess with an increasingly older population, the marketing of so called miracle cosmetics will only increase, preying on the fear of wrinkles with dubious claims as to the efficacy of the latest embrocation. Wouldn't it be wonderful to form a united front against such ploys and instead insist on the health benefits of dew and Maypole dancing? I'm not sure about postponing the bath until June though.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Happy Feet

I travelled to Leeds today with a bulky briefcase. Inside were 5 sheets of paper and a pair of shoes with heels. I changed as I entered the building where I was participating in a business meeting for a charity that I am a trustee of. It's a well rehearsed procedure on my part, implemented years ago when I discovered that walking from car parks and stations across towns and cities to courts and appointment venues, really couldn't be managed in anything that wasn't comfortable and as my feet aged, the definition of what was comfortable changed with them. In fact if I'd worked much longer, I would quite possibly have been spotted eventually sprinting along the footpath in carpet slippers; you know the kind: corduroy, a dull pattern and fur across the top in a total mismatch of colour. Fortunately I did the decent thing and retired before my lack of fashion sense became a total embarrassment.

Today it was reported that a London receptionist had been sent home from work for failing to wear high-heels. The poor woman had been expected to don heels of between 2 and 4 inches whilst spending her day conveying clients to meeting rooms. Now the Internet is ablaze with righteous indignation at the treatment of women in the workplace; why should the female office worker be obliged to put the long-term health of her feet at risk for an outdated dress policy?

I recall working in firms where women were not allowed to wear trousers although at some point in the 1980's rules were relaxed and an element of equality in the dress code was introduced although sadly it doesn't seem to have extended to below the knees. Well I know one thing for sure, if men were to be forced to totter around an office in stilettos for even half an hour there would be a very quick change of policy.

Here on Planet Retirement, of course, and save for rare trips to Leeds I have no such problems. Almost the reverse, as having always worn slippers in the house I continued that habit in retirement only to find that they can be equally as bad if worn for hours on end; clearly feet require more support than a pair of sheepskin mules can offer. I have now reached a happy compromise that will have bunion-endowed receptionists in central London drooling with envy: during the day I wear flat shoes with moulded insoles to prevent my instep from collapsing.

You see, feet love retirement too and there's no overbearing employer threatening to sack you if you don't comply with an outmoded and sexist shoe policy.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Watch Your Back

A bit of sunshine and last weekend saw me digging and weeding in the eldest's garden in Nottingham. It's in a more sheltered situation than my own and after the long winter months I was pleased to be able to spend two full days in the open air, working hard. Regrettably the journey home was  uncomfortable when the good old latissimus dorsi began to ache and the next morning I could barely stand up straight.

Ever the fool, when the weather finally picked up in the North at the end of the week I spent another two days, this time in my own garden, digging, weeding and albeit a little late, planting summer flowering bulbs. Needless to say I literally could not move on Friday evening. Once again it has taken two days to recover to a stage where I can at least walk comfortably even if I am not yet ready to bend down.

One of the problems with retirement is remembering that just because you can make hay every time the sun shines doesn't mean you must. You have to take into account, regardless of all the stretching in Pilates and Yoga, that it's easy to strain a muscle and, if you do, that the recovery time is longer than it ever used to be.

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.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Taking a Tumble

Well this week I went flying, literally, and no aeroplane was involved. Now I am not someone prone to moving horizontally through the air nor landing ignominiously in mud but, sad to say, whilst hurrying for a train to London on Tuesday that is exactly what happened. 

Now I do recall a similar experience when, wearing varifocals for the first time, I managed to roll headlong into the gutter as I stepped off the kerb. This time, those lenses are well and truly worn in, so cannot be held to account and instead I must simply have misplaced a foot on the edge of a narrow path, resulting in my being thrown totally off balance and, as I went down, twisting and spraining my ankle.  Fortunately for me, I was carrying a box of renowned Betty's Fondant Fancies at the time and landing on top of them surely avoided further damage to myself albeit squashing the cakes (intended as a gift) in the process!

I understand that falls have been shown to be the largest cause of death by unintentional injury of over 65's in the USA whilst our own NHS claims that at least one in three over 65's living at home will have at least one fall a year. Oh dear, I still have a few years to go but  it looks as though I may have to get used to this tumbling lark after all.

London is not of course the first destination of choice for those with a leg injury. Like any large city walking and going up and down steps are all part of the day there. However, not only did the train company put out a tannoy appeal for a doctor (no doubt I disappointed those passengers expecting a birth on board) but also brought medical ice packs onto the train at the next station, meaning that at least my ankle had been strapped and the swelling brought under control before arriving in the capital.

I should also say thanks to the wonderful concierge at the hotel who, in anticipation of a guest with a walking issue, had had the forethought to put a stick behind his desk ready for such an eventuality. I made his day by being the first visitor ever to have need of it.

Of course, if falling is so commonplace, I am unsure what the moral of this story is, other than to stay safe and tread carefully.