Keeping Those Legs Moving

One concern I had about retirement was in regard to my physical fitness. A challenging stressful job encouraged me to attend the gym regularly and to walk whenever possible. I wondered if I lacked the discipline to maintain any ‘’keep fit’ regime. To encourage myself I undertook the ‘Couch to 5K’ challenge ( https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week/) and committed myself to writing regular updates.(http://perpetually49.com/couch-2-5km/ – link to first of Blogs relating my experience)

I am not a runner by nature and I still dislike the activity, but I did complete the challenge. I then went on to gradually increase my distance until one day I ran 10Km in 1 hour and 15 minutes! And that was it – or so I thought. Having achieved such a level of fitness I am determined to maintain it for as long as possible, although not as a runner. So, what else is available?

I must acknowledge that some people enjoying running – as noted by the following link https://maturingwell.co.uk/index.php/2019/10/26/never-regret-going-for-a-run/ – uploaded by a Blogger who does enjoy a run.

I regularly attend a local gym. Although I use the equipment – Cross Trainer, Static Bike and Treadmill – I have not yet attended any of the group activities (available at no extra cost). I really must investigate these and try something.  As I already attend a Iyengar Yoga group elsewhere I thought I would look for something with a faster movement – Zumba Gold? I am not a natural dancer so this will be interesting ?

The importance of maintaining fitness is well documented not only for your physical state but also, very much so, for your mental health.

There are an increasing number of ‘Retiree’ Blogs and keeping fit and active is a common topic. I have inserted links throughout to some of those I found such as https://exerciseright.com.au/retired/ a general website with an overview of fitness – there are some  downloadable resources which may be of interest.

Of course, keeping active is not only about running a marathon or going to a Kick-Boxing class – it is equally important to both enjoy what you are doing and to challenge yourself. (it is often said you should scare yourself at least once a day!)

If golf, hiking and/or sailing make you happy then doing these activities will add to both your physical and mental well-being just the same as swimming 3 miles before breakfast.

We talk about physical fitness yet not so much about mental fitness – except to worry about Dementia. A topic so much in the newspapers now, accompanied by reports of the lack of available treatments and the difficulties of early diagnosis. Enough to invoke the stress and anxiety often stated as a contributory factor! Although both my parents lived until their late 80s their latter years were blighted by the diagnosis of Dementia. So, I have first-hand experience of how the disease impacts on quality of life and the extended family.

Keeping mentally active by learning new skills, maintaining social interactions and physical fitness – alongside eating and sleeping well – are all factors often cited as beneficial to retaining mental agility.

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/staying-mentally-active – general overview of retaining mental alertness

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-in-later-life – includes links to free downloads with information about how to stay mentally fit in your later years.

Short term memory issues such as ‘forgetfulness’ are common in all of us – who hasn’t been half way up the stairs and forgotten why you are going, or put the milk in the pantry and bread in the fridge?? When young we put this down to lack of concentration yet for the majority of us ‘oldies’ we worry that Dementia is setting in. Well, it might be but in reality, it is more likely to be as before – lack of concentration.

Social isolation is often noted to be a contributing factor to poor mental health so it is important to talk – join in family/friends events, accept invitations to gatherings, join a regular group activity local to where you live.  Joining a group/club that meet regularly may sound frightening if you don’t like meeting strangers so remember – everyone in the group was new once and would also have been anxious at their first attendance. ‘Strangers are only people you haven’t met yet’. If going alone is an issue then perhaps contacting the group leader prior to a meeting would help. An introductory conversation giving you information about the group may even inform you that you do know some-one who attends.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/mind-healing-socially-active-retirement-good-health/ – general advice on staying social and avoiding boredom (it’s detrimental to your health)

http://www.talkhealthpartnership.com/blog/2019/11/5-effective-ways-to-prevent-loneliness-this-winter/ – the focus here is avoiding loneliness and isolation (which can lead to depression and lack of motivation) this winter

Working naturally provides opportunities to interact with others both at work and at work-related social events. This avenue of communication is often closed once retirement occurs so by acknowledging this when planning your retirement loneliness/isolation can be avoided – by identifying interest groups, starting a new hobby etc before retirement starts.

If you already feel the need for assistance with loneliness contact Silverline www.thesilverline.org.uk – a telephone friend will work with you to re-ignite your social confidence. Telephone number is 0800 470 80 80.

A very simple way of maintaining self confidence in social surroundings is to just leave the house. Yes, just put on your coat and go for a walk. You will be surprised how many others are also out and about, doing the garden, walking the dog etc. If you acknowledge their presence, then 99% will respond. Use the bus instead of the car where possible, as well as reducing your carbon footprint, you will be surprised how easy conversations start whilst at the bus stop.

In general – maintaining social interactions promotes both mental and physical health – so, put on your coat and keep those legs moving.

Further general information in links below:

https://arborliving.co.uk/7-of-the-best-ways-to-keep-fit-in-retirement/ – another easy to read site with general advice. Does highlight the need to be honest with yourself, sticking to your plan or changing it – disinterest encourages apathy as we all know.

http://toofattorun.co.uk/blogs/ – Okay, so this Blog is not necessarily about Retirement and fitness but is worth a read if you fancy moving the legs faster. Am guessing that you do not even have to be overweight – just keen to join in, yet aware you may be out-of-practice or needing a bit of encouragement.

https://www.wearejust.co.uk/health-and-lifestyle/physical-wellbeing/active-pastimes/ site with general information presented in an encouraging motivating manner, includes links to other sites for further in-depth information.

http://perpetually49.com/staying-active/ – original article written in 2018 with links to further information.

Photo Acknowledgements:

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash – Featured Image

Photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash – Zumba

Photo by David Goldsbury on Unsplash – Golf

Photo by Eddy Klaus on Unsplash – Man Painting

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash – Family Group

Photo by chelsea ferenando on Unsplash – women in coat

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash – End Photo

 

Collated Insights on Bereavement, Family Woes and Happy Times

2019 has been a time of big changes, births, graduations and the death of my remaining parent. Alongside the physical tasks required following these events it is surprising how such changes alter individual life patterns and personal reflections.

Our first grandchild arrived safely in May. What kind of grandparent I would be had not really entered my consciousness (I was not one of those who eagerly anticipated a baby anytime my adult children appeared to be in a ‘serious relationship’) and, to be honest, my main concern during my daughter’s pregnancy was that everything went well and mother and baby came through the experience alive.

Being a grandparent has brought changes, although our experience is not very ‘hands on’ as the new family live in Sweden. It is different in some ways – a different language and different child-rearing customs needed to be recognised and – similar in others, in that it is lovely to have a ‘little person’ in the family and it is good to observe the new parents growing into their role. And, very good they are too.

Modern technology/software such as FaceTime has shown itself to be invaluable as we happily disperse advice and answer questions whilst also being able to watch baby develop. Obviously ‘advice giving’ is fraught with danger so I consciously state ‘this is what I would do, other options are ……… ‘

Just as we were growing into this new role and embracing the ‘next generation’ my mother’s health declined, and she passed away one Sunday morning. Poignant timing as we were in Stockholm visiting the new baby.

Her funeral arrangements had been made some years previously – she suffered with Dementia so it was important that she was involved in the planning whilst able to state her wishes. Despite this there was still plenty of tasks to arrange and complete.

There was no will so assistance and advice was required from the Probate Office   (https://www.gov.uk/applying-for-probate ). The estate is small and in good order yet still the process is time-consuming with many people to contact and numerous forms to complete. The wheels of bureaucracy do grind slowly, and I sympathise with anyone having to administrate a large estate. So once again, I encourage anyone reading this to write a will (https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/money-legal/legal-issues/making-a-will/# ) and to arrange a Power of Attorney                                                     ( https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/make-a-lasting-power-of-attorney)

As well as the practicalities there is also a grieving process to work through. No matter how expected the death of a relative or friend it still comes as a shock. Alongside the increasing Dementia my mother was 86 years old and becoming prone to Falls and Infections so her decline in physical health was obvious to us all.

As we worked through the funeral arrangements I became aware that I was dealing with the ‘tasks process’ and not addressing the ‘personal-to-me’ part of bereavement. Then, the realisation that I had not really addressed my father’s death 2 years earlier. At that time there was a lot to do and I spent many months sorting out a chaotic financial muddle and due to the family dynamics it was not straight forward. That had distracted me from acknowledging his death (links to Bereavement advice at end of article)

I had left home at 16 years old to begin a career in nursing (in the days of the Cadet Nurse) and had never moved back. I visited regularly and despite these visits declining as the years passed, I still phoned to speak to my parents most weeks – working life, marriage, children and living approx. 200 miles apart does impact on these relationships even with the best of intentions.

Yet despite regular conversations I was not aware that they were struggling with their situation – looking back I now realise that Mother was covering up her fears and concerns, making light of their declining years and not being open about failing health.

I understand that this is common with elderly parents. The need for independence, the reluctance to admit that handling difficult situations is now too much of a burden and it is easier ‘to let things slide’.

A sudden illness requiring emergency admission of my father to hospital was the eye-opener for me. Rushing to the hospital and meeting my mother at the entrance I recognised that she herself was not well. Then a sudden realisation that despite her claims of ‘everything will be fine’ we knew the time had come for interventions. I was glad of my NHS insights and knowing instinctively who we should talk to – hospital staff, Safeguarding teams, GP etc. Eventually both parents were identified as requiring 24-hour care and became residents of local Care Homes.

Although I hear negativity about Social Service departments I can only comment from my own experience which was very positive. I felt listened too and supported and they worked with myself and siblings to identify the correct care setting for both parents. This did result in them being in two different Homes although arrangements were made for regular visits and contacts.

Emptying the house was a mammoth task although as we progressed the evidence of a declining ability to cope showed itself – ‘how did we miss this’ was a question asked frequently. So, although not able to cope with what was happening to them, they were able to develop ‘coping mechanisms’ to hide this from us and they obviously did it well.

The positives that did come out of all the trauma was, once in a Care Home setting they both improved physically and as Mother’s Dementia progressed it was re-assuring for the family that she was safe, secure and cared for.

So alongside the conversations with Health Care Professionals we were also having dialogue with Landlords, Banks and Utility companies etc as well as the Office of the Public Guardian as there were no Power of Attorneys in place. Then before all this could be resolved Father’s health declined and he died – which takes me back to the origins of this tale.

I became so caught up in the practicalities of the events – funeral arrangements, accessing funds to pay increasing debts such as Care Home Fees and funeral costs and supporting the family that it never occurred to me I had never taken even 5 minutes to sit down, take a breath and reflect on his death.

It took me until my mother’s funeral, to acknowledge this. My parents were both in their late 80’s when they died. They had been young adults when starting a family so myself and my siblings were ourselves reaching retirement age. As a consequence their deaths were not totally unexpected yet their absence does alter the family structure and we are, to all intents and purposes, orphans.

Bereavement is individual to each person and we all handle such life events in our own way. Often this is an unconscious process and whilst for many loss and grief display themselves through tears and visible sadness it can also be evidenced through stress, anxiety and increased susceptibility to minor illnesses. Unresolved this can lead to longer-term illnesses and effects on mental health so obtaining information from local Bereavement Groups and websites etc can be supportive during the grieving process.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/coping-with-bereavement/

https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-help/about-grief

https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/relationships-family/bereavement/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/bereavement/#.XbB_h0ZKhPY

https://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/your-family/family-life/coping-with-bereavement/

Yet life moves on and adjustments in the family relationships are made, consciously or otherwise. Meanwhile Baby is growing well, developing his own character and having visited us recently I have had very ‘hands on’ experience of the role of Grandma.

 

Photography Acknowledgements:

Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash – Featured Image

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash – Lamb

Photo by Jan Schulz # Webdesigner Stuttgart on Unsplash – Misty Hill

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash – Paperwork

Photo by Micheile Henderson @micheile010 // Visual Stories [nl] on Unsplash – Couple

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash – Dog in Box

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash – Frog