Transcript: Healthy body, healthy mind
Angellica: Welcome to Rewirement with me, Angellica Bell, brought to you by Legal & General. If you're looking for inspiration, tips and empowering ideas for your someday, this series is your one- stop shop to make it happen. I'm bringing you real people's retirement stories so that whatever it is you have in mind or whatever your timeline, you can take action today for a brilliant colourful tomorrow.
As you near retirement, you're probably looking forward to meeting some new goals and challenges, the things you didn't have time, money, or freedom for in working life. So how do you make sure you plan well and set the right goals for the right time? Our bodies are always changing and as we get older we need to adapt, make allowances and get a little savvy. The more you make it individual to you, the better it's going to be.
Retirement is also a mental shift, especially if we've had a very structured or busy job and family life. So managing our minds with the right tools is also a powerful move. Today we're going to be chatting about how you can take great care of your mind and body and stay in shape to achieve everything you want. I'll be joined by Legal and General's Emma Byron, and Age- Well writer and health coach, Susan Saunders, to find out more.
First up though, let's meet two people who've taken to their retirement lifestyle with different attitudes. Jill is a former teacher who lives with her husband and their sprocker spaniel in Leicester. She and her hubby are both keen runners and spend their free time doing community projects. She started by telling us about her switch to retirement.
Jill: I taught for 35 years. I've actually taught in the same school for 35 years although I had a variety of roles. And I had a string of outstanding Ofsted inspections and I thought, " Well, I can only go down from that really." So I decided at the age of 57 that I would go. And it was very, very traumatic. The thought of it was just awful because that was to be my life. I've never known anything different. But I started to put plans in place before I actually retired. For the last year I went down to four days, and then I retired in the summer of 2011. And it was fine while all the youngsters were on holiday but when everybody went back to school, I thought I'd made an absolutely horrible mistake.
Angellica: But Jill's momentary panic didn't last long. Her husband was still working so she enrolled in a German course and took off to Austria for a few months, making friends along the way. She thinks that cutting down her day slowly made the biggest difference in her move to retirement.
Jill: I think it's a mental thing. I mean, I'm sure I did five days worth of work in four days. It was just having a little bit of freedom and it gave me time to reflect on what the possibilities were for the future. I felt quite strongly that if I'd have gone from five days to nothing, it would have been a bigger shock to my system really.
To me, retirement is a time of opportunity. It's a time to pursue things that you've not been able to pursue. And I think I am so lucky in that I'm very healthy and, of course, a retired teacher, we have enough money to do what we want to do. So we count ourselves very lucky, and we're not going to waste that time. We're going to just live it to the full really.
I gave myself a structure when I came out of teaching, because I knew that it would be very easy to waste time. So the rule was, " This is my time and I'm jolly well going to be up at half past six, get dressed, get the hair done and that sort of thing, get out." But I worked on the principle that I wanted to do active stuff, but I also wanted to do stuff for my brain and I wanted to do some voluntary work, because I felt that I've been so lucky, it was important to give back. So I had a structure where I had fixed points on certain days that I always did certain things, but then I maybe had another day when I was completely free to do anything or another afternoon when I was free to do anything.
Angellica: When she returned from Austria, the opportunities flooded in. Jill was invited to help out at the local church. She continued her German lessons and signed up for evening classes in French. She soon realized that her diary had filled itself right up.
Jill: I worked at an old people's lunch club on a Thursday. I refused to do anything before 10 o'clock in the morning because I wanted to be out running with the dog. And suddenly I realized I actually didn't have time to go to work. We have three days in the summer where we provide activities and we'd go on a trip and things like that. So I think I've probably got a wider circle of friends now than I ever had when I was teaching. I'm very different people.
Angellica: Jill had always turned to running and the outdoors as a relief from the pressures of teaching. But in retirement, it's become an even more vital hobby for her health and happiness.
Jill: It's my life. I'm being honest. It's my life. I love it. I love the fact that I can eat anything I want. I don't have to worry what goes in my mouth. It's a friendship group with a running club and particularly with my other friend. But I think the problem is that because I do what I do, I don't fit in with people of my age. And I find that quite difficult sometimes. People 65, well, 67 now, are not necessarily into running, skiing and cycling and swimming. So I really value the friendships I've got with the running people. So running's incredibly important to me, really is.
Now, I'm a lot more leisurely about it. I have a running friend who I run with. She's also retired and we run four times a week. We go out very early in the mornings and we run across the fields. And if we want to stop and look at something, we stop and look at something. But we also do the odd race, part run, 10 Ks, half marathons, that sort of thing. But he's not serious like it used to be. I used to be looking at my watch and thinking, " Can I knock 10 seconds off here?" I really don't care now.
We just love to be outside. We've got a big garden. Obviously we've got a dog. It's the sort of dog that if you don't give it at least seven miles a day, it'll tear the house up. So we're out with the dog. It doesn't matter what the weather's doing, we're out. In the summer I'm never in the house. I've always got my shorts on and I'm not sitting. It's really, really important. And we're lucky where we live because we've got really nice countryside.
Angellica: In fact, after years of longing for a dog, Jill spent her leaving gift from the school on a sprocker spaniel puppy. Her criteria: a dog that could run. Jill and her husband switched their holiday schedule so they could spend the summer traveling in the UK with their pooch. They now take their holidays in the winter months, that's because, age 58, they tried out skiing or running on skis as they put it. And it now lets them see the world in a different way.
Jill: Of course, the moment the skis went on, we were absolutely hooked. Loved every minute of it. We are ski bums now, basically. We go three times a year and we just ski. It's great. And we go to Scandinavia so we can downhill and we can cross country ski as well.
Angellica: So what's Jill's advice for anyone looking for a healthy balance in retirement?
Jill: First of all, look after yourself, keep your weight down, eat healthily, don't drink too much, have everything you want, but just be sensible about it. I would say to people, have a variety of activities. So you might have something physical, something that you use your brain, something social. And also, as I said to you before, have fixed points in the week where you have to get up and you have to do things and then other points in the week where you can, basically, please yourself. I think that probably would be the best advice. But the important thing is your health, isn't it? If you look after yourself, everything else is possible.
What I found has been so good with retirement is that I've mixed with such a wide range of people that I didn't do when I was at work. I mix with the dog walkers, there's the church people, there's the old people. I mentor some of the youngsters at the church who are doing GCSEs and stuff like that. There's a whole range of people that I probably never would have mixed with before. So that's really important. It broadens your horizons. And even if it doesn't work out, having a plan is important.
And I think, as well, giving back. We are so lucky to have what we have that it's important to give back to society. My husband does community driving. I work with the old people. It's fulfilling for us, but it's also giving back to society, which I think's really, really important because we've had, and we have, such fantastic lives.
Angellica: Jill is such a powerhouse and a fun person to listen to. Her energy is so contagious and it definitely made me want to lace up my running shoes and get going. I love how she had to pick a dog that could keep up with her in retirement.
Right. Let's hear from Peter now. He's also a big runner. After a diverse career in engineering and then journalism he now enjoys sharing his skills for the good of his community. He's also an artist and all round inquiring mind. He was really honest with me about just what a big role the mind plays in keeping healthy after the day job ends.
Peter, it's lovely to talk to you today. I'm really interested to know about your career and your experience of retiring because I know you've had a great life, haven't you?
Peter: Yeah. And I've had that interesting life, basically. So I quit becoming a civil engineer and started working as a journalist, throwing away all my previous education and just taking a punt at something totally new. For, well, more than 20 years, basically, I got made redundant and I and another journalist set up a news website, sold the company and two years later retired.
Angellica: So obviously you're not one to shy away from risk because you seem to have had lots of different turns and twists in your life?
Peter: That's what life has taught me, that you should grab opportunities when they arise. And if you've got your heart in it, it'll all work out okay, basically.
Angellica: Hm. So you've had a fulfilled working life and obviously you managed to sell off your company, which ... Did that mean you could pay off your mortgage?
Peter: Oh, yeah.
Angellica: Did it mean you could live comfortably?
Angellica: Are you in a good position?
Peter: Yes. Yeah. So I didn't have a mortgage and it just so happened that my parents were selling their house in Cornwall, so we bought it and that's it. So that's where I'm living now, basically.
Angellica: How did you feel about retiring then?
Peter: To start off with, I wanted to give something back. I've always felt as though I've been very lucky in life. So I started off by ( a) helping a local charity here that provides holidays for families with disabled children. As a journalist, I help them with all the marketing side of things. And then at the same time as that, I volunteered to mentor teenagers that were in trouble in Cornwall. So I spent, I think it was about four years, going to see teenagers and trying to help them with their problems.
I wanted to take up art. I'd given up art when I was at school when I was 13. So I started going to some evening classes. Used to count the days when I could go back there for my once a week evening session. And then I was looking at the students thinking how lucky they were. And I hope they realize how lucky they were. And then it occurred to me that I could go there myself and do a degree, which is what I ended up doing. So I did a part- time degree,-
Peter: ... ended up getting a first.
Angellica: Of course, you did. You don't seem like somebody who would do things for health. And I like that about you.
Peter: Well, funny enough, when I was a teenager, I remember getting quite depressed and saying to my mother I felt like that. And she said ... Well, she quoted something in French, (foreign language) " You should cultivate your garden," which, basically, means keep yourself busy. And that's what I do with my life. I've been happy because I've kept myself doing things. So while I've been doing all the art stuff and all the stuff with the charities and volunteers, I've also kept physically busy as well. I volunteer, I dive and I run.
Angellica: Ah, so you run. So do you run races or is it just get out there and see how far you get?
Peter: The charity I was working with got a place in the London marathon. I did my first marathon in four hours, six minutes. So I trained for the next one. And so the next time I did it, I was 70 years old and I did it in three hours, 51/ 50 something, just under 3: 52. And when I finished, it looked as though I was 10th, but by the time other, some slower starters, had finished, I was actually 13th. But still.
Angellica: We're not going to quibble over three places because it's still incredible. So is the outdoors a big part of your experience of retirement?
Peter: Yeah. We have phenomenal views of the sea from this house. If I look out this window, I can see an island and a lighthouse, and we've got a big garden so I do a lot of gardening. I learned to dive when we arrived in Lu and I've dived in all sorts of places around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea and places like that.
Angellica: Lovely. But you've got such a positive mental attitude to retirement. And was that the case at the beginning? And has it changed?
Peter: So I'd launched a startup and I was really tired and I wanted to stop. And also I had all these other things I wanted to do.
Angellica: Are there any moments in your retirement that stand out for you?
Peter: I ran in the Olympic torch relay in 2012, and that was an amazing experience. It was like being parachuted into the best ever party, basically, because I was surrounded by people willing me on, basically. It was a fantastic experience.
10 years ago I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. So I had a really major operation at that stage. And, in fact, I did all my running of marathons after I'd had that operation. So, I guess, that's another thing that really stands out.
Angellica: You've got some resilience there.
Peter: I'm 75 now. I've had a really great ride, basically. I don't want to die, but hope when I do die, I can look back on it and think I spent my time well.
Angellica: And what do you think it was about your work life that helped you make such a success of your retirement and your positivity?
Peter: Being prepared to chuck up my profession as a civil engineer and take a gamble worked out and just showed to me that when opportunities arise, you should grab them, basically. And retirement is just one big opportunity.
Angellica: So what's your advice for a healthy retirement?
Peter: Somebody told me this when I first retired, " You need to have a balance between three things: the physical side, the mental side, and then the third thing really is a social side, develop a social network. I'd always worked so hard. I didn't really have a big social network, but when I come here I've joined a running club and I've really put my roots down here and I think that's also a very key part of retirement.
Angellica: You don't have to run marathons in retirement or have thousands of hobbies to be happy. It's just about finding the right healthy balance of activities for you. I do love Peter's advice about doing something for the body, something for the mind and something for the community. A fantastic balance.
Now, let's get some expert ideas on things you can try in your retirement from the best independent learning to sensible advice on getting active. I'm joined by Legal & General's Emma Byron and health coach, Susan Saunders.
Susan, tell me about your mission to Age- Well because you've published a book all about it, haven't you?
Susan: That's right Well, published two actually. I was co- author of a book called " The Age- Well Project, and then at the end of last year, I wrote a book by myself called The Age- Well Plan. And, yes, I am absolutely passionate about helping people to age. Well, I think we can all change the way we age.
Angellica: So as a health coach, how do you approach the needs differently for people in later life? Is it ever too early or too late to start? I feel I know what you're going to say.
Susan: Yeah. It's never too early and it's never too late. Everybody's individual, of course, and everybody has very different requirements, but it's really a case of working out where you are now, evaluating what you want and working out what you want the future to look like. How's it going to feel? What are you going to be doing? That applies to health as much as to finances. What is the way forward? What you want it to feel like? And then working out the steps to get there.
Angellica: Now, to write a book about it, you must have thought, " This is needed and people need to hear this." So what was it that motivated you to write about this?
Susan: My own journey to aging well started nearly 20 years ago. I was 36. I was working full time as a TV producer. I had a baby and a toddler and my mother was diagnosed with dementia and so I became a carer as well. So I had to juggle all those balls, which was very, very difficult. And what made it more poignant was that as a teenager myself, I had watched my mother do that for her mother. So I was conscious of a pattern. I was conscious that I wanted to do everything I could to reduce my risk of dementia and age- related diseases. And I started researching and reading endless papers, which are published on this subject. And it's all so confusing. You're constantly being told, " Drink coffee. You'll live forever." " Don't drink coffee. You'll die."
And I just wanted to really work out a middle way and work out what would work for me. I was so busy. I didn't have time for weird wellness retreats or making a hundred juices or whatever. So I had to work out what would fit into my life. And then when I started blogging about it with a friend, we just found that there were so many other people in the same boat who just wanted knowledge without having to follow fads.
Angellica: So, basically, it's a book about things you can eat, things you can do just to make that process easier or is it just to be conscious about the fact that as you get older your body changes?
Susan: I think, first of all, it's about being conscious about what's happening. And, as I said, what do you want from your own life? But when we started, I really thought it was just about food, it was just going to be about what we ate. And then as we researched more, I realized there's so many other things which are really important. It's not just what you eat. It's exercise, how you move, how well you sleep, is really critical. Social engagement, mental stimulation in whatever form that might be and the environment in which you're aging. All those things are really critical.
Angellica: Well, as we're hearing, being healthy in retirement is a multifaceted idea. And, I guess, it's very individual too.
So, Emma, what are some of the angles people should consider when they're thinking ahead?
Emma: Yeah, clearly, it is very individual. We know people live a lot longer these days, but that's not everyone. We're not all an average person. So when we look at average life expectancy, that's not necessarily going to be used. So it's going to be very dependent on people's health. Do they smoke? Do they drink? All of those things. So even when you're planning for your retirement, trying to work out how long are you going to live and how long you need to finance your life for is a very difficult thing to do. And people make the mistake often of looking to their parents as an indicator of that.
So none of us like thinking about death, but let's think about it in a more positive way. I think the other thing is about, it's not just living a longer retirement, it also needs to be a happy retirement, and it's going to be very different if you're fit active and healthy, versus if you require significant care needs. We could live for a very long, long time and you want to make sure that you're going to have the finances to support you in that and that you're fit and healthy as well so you can enjoy it as much as anything else.
Angellica: Yeah. Well, security and financial peace of mind play no small part in our mental wealth being, whatever state we're at, you just feel calm. But how can people on a lower budget maximize this, especially if they are wanting to experience lots of things in older life but be well?
Emma: Everyone wants to know that they're going to have enough money to pay the bills and the basics. So I always like to think of that. What do you need at bare minimum to survive and live a happy life? And there's lots of different ways, depending on your income, your wealth, how that will be supported. So most people will be able to get a state pension. So make sure you understand how much that is. Is that enough to cover what you see is your basic living needs? So, your electricity, your food and so on.
But actually I think what I would class as essential need is not just food and clothes and so on. Having the ability to do your favourite exercise class, that might be just equally important in that category. And then you either are going to have to fund that with your state pension or you might have a defined benefit pension that will pay you for the rest of your life or you might use your defined contribution pension to purchase an annuity, which would also give you that security and peace of mind.
Angellica: So how should you budget for a golf or travel hobby if you're pension planning, for instance, as well?
Emma: You might be able to rent out a room for a lodger or something like that or do a bit of dog walking for people which, again, is going to keep you active and healthy. So if you don't have enough in your pension to do that, then there's other ways that you can supplement it. And then I like to think about the budgeting in threes, categorize it, break it down, it makes a bit easier to manage, so the basic living needs. And then I'd call it he nice to have. So, if possible, we would like to go on holiday or go out for meals or socialize with friends, that's always where you can cut back if you really need to, if you don't have enough, but having a pot of money that allows you to have those nice to haves.
And then the other thing is having a rainy day fund. None of us can predict the future, none of us know when our cars are going to break down or our washing machine is going to break down and we might need something for that. And also care needs in later life. So I think having a bit tucked away that you try not to touch unless it's a rainy day, is also helpful. So it's really just basic budgeting, but trying to break down the problem into a few parts I think can help to make it feel a bit more digestible and manageable for people.
Angellica: Well, Susan, we're talking about physical activities for health, but how can our choice of retirement pastimes impact our mental wellbeing too?
Susan: Having pastimes in later life, regardless of whether you're retired or not, is as important as eating well and exercising is absolutely vital. If you think about it, we evolved as social animals, we belong to our tribe and our wellbeing is really predicated on what we do and how we spend our time.
It's really important to be social when we can. I know at the moment that's quite difficult, and it's really important to remain intellectually stimulated. And if you can find ways of combining the two, if you like reading, that's great for your brain. Or is there a local book club you can join? Does your local bookshop have a club that you can join?
I mean, this is physical, but if you like running, then is there a local running club or a walking club that you can join, as Jill does with her running club? It's all about finding things that will stimulate us, that will keep our brains active and ticking over because we build new neurons, brain cells essentially, until we die if we keep our brains active.
Angellica: So, so important. Are there any resources you can recommend for people who want to start learning or developing a new hobby or a skill right now?
Susan: I think the important thing is to stay local because then you'll meet people in your local environment. So as I say, if your local bookshop has a book group and that interests you, pursue that. Local running clubs, local gardening clubs. Keep it local and follow your passions. There's no point trying to take up bridge if you hate cards. If there's something that you like, what's happening in your area that will support that and how will it lead to you meeting other people?
Angellica: And also as you're keeping it local means that you will find people who are like minded and that you can see in and interact with easily, isn't it?
Susan: Yeah, exactly. And then if you meet people through a gardening club, then you're going to bump into them in the park walking the dog, and you're expanding your community.
Angellica: Yeah, brilliant.
And, Emma, is there any places we can get more resources on our finances for this as well?
Emma: Sure. So we have put together a course in conjunction with Open University that helps people to plan for their retirement. So that can be accessed online at the Open University's website and that's completely free for people. It just helps you to start thinking about that planning for retirement. And then on the L&G website there's also lots of guides for retirement and calculators and things that help you just understand how much you might get in retirement. So, again, make sure you educate yourself. I think that helps you to feel in control and happy as you approach retirement.
Angellica: And, Susan, quick. I just want to ask you, is there a right age or way to start this transition to a healthy retirement balance? Do you have to wait until you finish work, for example?
Susan: No, I don't think so. I think you should start looking ahead, starting thinking about the physical, the mental stimulation, the social things you're going to be doing. Really, as soon as you can, start to ...
Even if it's in a very small way, just starting to think about what might that be and what resources are there locally and how could I pursue that and what am I going to gain from it if I do? You think about that as soon as you can, and if you can find a way of structuring retirement so that it's not immediate, as Jill did, you start to perhaps go part time, if you can afford to do that, and then start to pursue those other interests at the same time, then it makes that transition so much easier.
And maybe you won't want to retire in quite such a dramatic way if the life balance changes.
Angellica: Hmm. A bit like what you did. And look at you, you're just so relaxed. Imparting all this knowledge to us. It could make a massive difference.
Susan: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. It's finding your passion. As I said to you, that's what I did unexpectedly. But find your passion and pursue it in any way you can. It doesn't have to be a huge thing. It can just be an hour or two a week.
Angellica: Do you think, Susan, that there is this idea that when you retire, you're meant to do certain things or you're seen in a certain way, and is it breaking that mould that the world's your oyster?
Susan: Absolutely. I think retirement and, generally, the second half or last third of your life, whatever it's going to be, is as individual as you are and there is no set pattern. And the more you make it individual to you, the better it's going to be. And the worst thing is to try and follow a specific mould.
Angellica: Emma, what sorts of questions should someone be asking themselves, say 20 or 10 years away from retirement in order to keep their options open?
Emma: So probably to go back to my putting things into threes and how you plan for that, because it's a long way in the future. So trying to think about what life looks like 20 years out or 30 years out is quite difficult. I mean, I'm not quite sure what my life looks like necessarily five years out. So I think it's trying to visualize that a little bit. So I'd start with your life. So what's it going to be like? So where are you going to live? Are you going to live in your current house or would do downsize? Are you going to move abroad and retire to the sunshine? Are you going to still work?
And then I think it's back to then the finances. So what might you have? And trying to think about that 20 or even 10 years out from retirement is so important because you can do something about it then. If you're hitting retirement and you haven't saved enough for this wonderful lifestyle you've imagined, then you might be a bit late to change that in any significant way.
And then my third step is putting that together. So you think about what your lifestyle might look like. You think about what you might have saved and making sure that those two things marry together and that you've got enough to supplement and fulfill your life because being in control of your finances ultimately gives you a huge amount of freedom and it gives you a huge amount of mental wellbeing as well. No one wants to have ... Money worries are really difficult to deal with. So getting to grips with all of that as early as possible is really, really important to them leading a happy and healthy retirement.
Angellica: Which is such good advice.
But then, Susan, at the same time, something that Emma touched on, is that we don't know what's going to happen in five years or even tomorrow, but as long as you're putting that into place, it's just that comfort blanket, isn't it?
Susan: Exactly. And health is like money. Health is wealth. It's having those things in place so that you know that you can look forward with the energy and the mental sharpness that you hope to have and that you're at least doing all that you can preparing yourself for the best possible future.
Angellica: A big thank you to Emma and Susan for some great ideas. You can check out those links in the show notes to this episode. But if you'd like to find out more about retirement planning or get stuck into inspiring articles and resources, have a look at the website. It's legalandgeneral.com/ retirement.
And, remember, there's no better time to start the transition to a healthy mental balance and bank balance to fulfil your dream retirement lifestyle. So go on, start planning your best life now.
Next time we're talking about the retirement experience as an LGBTQ person and meeting more inspiring retirees. Join me then.
Speaker 7: Whether you're a gay man or any other guy, whether you're single or married, I think you need to get good, sound, financial advice.
Angellica: I'm Angellica Bell. Follow Rewirement on your favourite platform and I'll catch you next time.
If there are dreams you want to fulfil later in life, or you’d like an active lifestyle in retirement, how can you make sure you stay healthy and physically fit to achieve it all? Our bodies are always changing, and managing the psychological aspects of different life stages is essential too.
In episode four of our new podcast series, find out how two unique retirees, Peter & Jill, have achieved this. Jill’s a former teacher with bundles of energy who eased her way into retirement with part-time work, and bought a Sprocker Spaniel to keep pace with her running hobby.
Peter’s also a keen runner and he explains how pursuing an art degree fulfilled him in ways his careers in engineering and journalism hadn’t. He tells us his three pillars for staying mentally and physically happy and healthy in retirement.
Angellica chats to health coach Susan Saunders who’s on a mission to inspire you to find your own unique version of a happy retirement and ageing well. Hear her advice for finding your way through the mixed messaging of wellness.
However you’re approaching a happy and healthy retirement, ensuring you include financial planning in the mix is a must. Emma Byron, Managing Director of Retirement Solutions at
Legal & General, shares her expert ideas and financially savvy suggestions.
Managing Director of Retirement Solutions at Legal & General
Emma Byron leads the Legal & General Retirement Solutions business, which provides savings and retirement products to customers, ranging from workplace pensions to pension drawdown. Emma joined Legal & General in 2014 and is passionate about helping people understand and engage in their retirement choices.
Age-Well health coach
Susan Saunders helps people across the world age well, through one-to-coaching, group classes and her books. She’s one half of the successful blog Age Well (agewellproject.com) which shares the latest research into longevity, and strategies for making it work in our own busy lives.