There are some common issues that impact most people to a greater or lesser extent when they get older. For instance, they become less mobile, the need more medication and treatments, eyesight and hearing begin to fail. Add to that the higher likelihood of suffering from any number of health issues as the body ages and we can see that as people live longer they will need more help with the daily tasks of living.
The increasing need for senior care raises the issue of how to pay for that care. Many governments such as the UK Government pay for elderly care on a means tested basis but the threshold for receiving financial help is relatively low. Paying for your own care is becoming increasingly common even amongst those people not considered well-off. This typically meant moving to a residential care home but one advantage of paying for your own care is the choice it gives on type of care. More and more older people are now choosing to have live-in care at home provided by a trained carer who attends several times a day or moves in to provide round-the-clock care should that be necessary.
People are also living longer (ironically because of better healthcare) which has implications not only for the UK health service but also for the pensions system. Many funding models for both the NHS and the State Pension were based on forecasts that are now outdated. And whilst the reasons for making the age at which state pension can be claimed gradually older and older in order to cover the funding gap, the fact that people are living longer means that retiring at 60 for many people seems too young and cause difficulties adjusting to retirement
Difficulties Adjusting to Retirement
Many people look forward to retirement after a lifetime of hard work. Retirement for those with a comfortable pension and friends or partners to share their later life with can mean opportunities to explore new places, new activities and new hobbies. However, there are others who dread a time when days have no structure, when they see fewer people and lose the sense of self-identity provided by their job.
Forward planning for retirement both in terms of finances and daily pursuits is essential to avoid some of the potential difficulties mentioned. Here are some simple ways to create a new structure for the later part of life:
- Learning a challenging new skill such as a foreign language
- Taking up a new hobby such as gardening
- Joining local community clubs
- Volunteer at local charities
Social Issues Impacting Older People
Some of the problems experienced by older people are not easily solved by, for instance, taking up a new hobby or joining a club. Without a good, local support network of friends and family it can be hard to get involved in something new. Through various circumstances, some beyond their control, some older people are left with no friends or family nearby. It can then be easy to become lonely and loneliness can lead to depression or poor self-esteem. The scale of the problem in the UK alone is evident by the fact that over 2 million people over 65 live alone according to statistics from the charity Age UK.
A person living alone with little social interactions with other people can suffer the same risk to general health as someone who smokes 15 cigarettes a day. Studies have shown that loneliness can cause a decline in health including in relation to heart problems and dementia.
One of the benefits of a professional carer providing care in a person’s own home is that they can support and encourage the older person to get out and about. They also provide much-needed company for those living alone. Where the senior person does have friends and relatives but not nearby a live-in carer can even help in the use of digital technology to keep in touch. So even for those people unable to get out because of illness or poor mobility learning to use modern technology can, quite literally, provide a lifeline.
The issues of an increasingly ageing population cannot be solved overnight, but some of them can be tackled by planning in advance for retirement and, if possible, planning where you live in later life to avoid loneliness and maintain social contact. Forward planning for later life may not be able to solve all issues, especially if there is the unexpected loss of a loved one, but it’s a good place to start.