Planning for Retirement
Planning for a healthy, enjoyable retirement involves more than saving money. Our homes and the communities where we choose to live also have a significant impact on our quality of life.
Change in Lifestyle
Retirement can be a radical change in lifestyle, particularly for those who have worked outside of the home. When people retire, they often find themselves spending much of their time at home. It can seem like an isolating experience, but retirement can also be a wonderful time to pursue leisure activities. During our working lives, a common complaint is the lack of free time, so plan ahead to enjoy your retirement to the fullest. If you've always wanted to see Europe or some other destination, put aside money for travelling. If you enjoy woodworking or creating stained glass, for example, you may want to get started on setting up a workshop in your garage or basement. If you've always wanted to try painting, retirement presents the perfect opportunity. You never know - you may just end up being back in business selling your handiwork!
Another way to alleviate the feeling of being isolated is to become more involved in the community. Sharing your time, gifts and talents with others by volunteering can be deeply satisfying. Look under Volunteer Services, Community Services and Social Service in your local Yellow Pages to find organizations in need of volunteers. Going back to school is another way to get involved in the community. It can help maintain mental sharpness and provide a sense of belonging and opportunities for new friendships. Other options include learning a new language, gourmet cooking or learning to play a musical instrument.
Barriers in the Home
Another important aspect to consider is how well your home will age with you. Many of us will experience impaired vision, reduced mobility or reliance on a wheelchair at some point in our lives. These physical limitations may make it difficult for people to remain at home, particularly if their home presents certain obstacles such as stairs or narrow doorways. In some cases, people are forced to leave a home in which they have invested years of memories. By purchasing a home that can age with you and/or making renovations to an existing home, you will be able to enjoy the comforts of your own home for years to come. Consider the following:
- Are the doors wide enough to allow a wheelchair to pass through? Doorways should be a minimum of 82cm (32 inches) wide and all entries should have a flat threshold. Allow a minimum width of 92cm (36 inches) for walkways.
- Does your home have a sunken living room? Stairs are difficult or impossible to climb in a walker or wheelchair.
- Is there room for a wheelchair in your kitchen? The open floor space should be 1.525 metres by 1.525 metres (5 feet by 5 feet) to allow a wheelchair to easily turn 360 degrees.
Where a person chooses to live can also affect how much they enjoy their retirement years. Having family close by can make it easy for retirees to socialize with children and grandchildren. Close proximity to family means that assistance is nearby when it is needed. Another important source of support and social interaction is the local community. Check into the social programs offered by community centers (and churches, if applicable). Typically, there are numerous activities for seniors such as card games, art classes and trips.
Medical and other services
Proximity to medical services is another important consideration when choosing a location in which to retire. Check into the availability of in-home (or outreach) services such as nursing care and meal delivery. Consider the distance to family doctors and hospitals.
Internet and E-mail
Age is certainly not a limitation to computer usage. Even people who think they are too old to use a computer may find themselves hooked on surfing the net and e-mailing their grandchildren after a few lessons!
The Internet has also become and increasingly important source of information. Business and government offer information online, making it easy for seniors to gather information at their fingertips. Most banks and financial institutions now offer online banking services allowing people to streamline their financial matters. Retirees can look up information about medical conditions and medications and keep informed on the latest research.
One of the best gifts children can give older parents is a computer and some lessons on how to use it. (Lessons are also available at most community centers and at organizations such as the YMCA-YWCA.) Before you know it, they'll be surfing the net and perhaps playing online card games with new friends around the world.
Advances in medicine and technology mean that people can now enjoy a healthier more active retirement than ever before. With some planning, these truly can be the best years of a person's life!