Take action for more fulfilling retirement

THE over-50s have many issues to consider, writes Jill Maclean.

Retirement can be a very fulfilling time in life. Picture: Paul McSherry.

Making the decision to retire is one of the most significant we make. But is the word “retirement” really still relevant as a description of the modern realities of later life decisions for today’s 50- to 60-year-old?

As a member of the “baby boomer” era, I was fortunate to have parents who retired from long careers in teaching knowing that they had the security of their accumulated pensions to ease their way into later life. As I start to consider my own later life, I’ve realised that my own decisions and choices are definitely more complex and different to those of my parents.

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At Age Scotland, the leading national charity representing older people, we understand these complexities. Our goal is to engage, enable, and support everyone in Scotland to step into later life positively and purposefully in a way that is right for your unique personal and family circumstances.

The statistics for Scotland for healthy life expectancy are among the lowest in Europe. However, changing this reality will take time. Meanwhile, at Age Scotland our commitment is to ensure that our work contributes to accelerate that process.

We know that the more thoughtful and planned you are about preparing yourself mentally, emotionally and financially for later life, the healthier, happier and, crucially, longer the experience will be for you and all those around you. Today’s 50- to 60-year-olds are understandably apprehensive about retirement, but are definitely not ready for days of “TV and slippers”.

For some, they may have left a long-term role but need to keep working. Others want to keep working or to volunteer, or educate themselves, learn a new skill or gaining a qualification. These, along with other options and possibilities, are the things people approaching later life are beginning to talk about.

The typical questions people explore as they prepare to move into retirement focus around three key themes: finances, tax, and legal issues. Every bit as important, though it often receives less attention, are questions around managing the emotional impact of leaving work, and your future wellbeing, so that you enjoy a fulfilling and healthy later life for as long as possible.

Working life has changed dramatically in the last 20 years and we face a future where flexible working and portfolio careers are the norm; where people have joined and left several organisations, perhaps experienced redundancy, and had periods of self-employment and even unemployment. Our families have also changed dramatically, so figuring out how to look after or protect those we care most about when life throws up unexpected challenges – particularly after our death – requires difficult questions to be considered.

Today’s over-50s often have concerns that span generations, for example, ensuring elderly parents are cared for and not isolated or lonely. Others have concerns about how best to help and support children and grandchildren. It’s all too easy to easy to put your own needs to the bottom of the list. Yet taking that moment to step back and reflect on balancing what you need and want from later life is a critical task.

Last year, two charities, the Scottish Pre-Retirement Trust and the Tayside Pre-Retirement Council, became part of Age Scotland. We are currently refreshing and updating the pre-retirement workshops to create an experience that covers all the critical questions and considerations for people planning to leave their career roles or long-term employment. We have partnered with a number of other professional organisations so workshop participants engage directly with the most current advice, guidance and support available.

As a charity, all the money raised by Age Scotland stays in Scotland for the benefit of the people of Scotland. So the provision of these workshops, either as a preferred supplier of an employer, or through attending open courses, means we can reinvest the income we generate back into our communities and contribute to improving healthy life expectancy in Scotland.

With all the changes in this time of life, perhaps simply saying “retirement” just isn’t enough.

But whatever we end up calling this life stage, the most important thing is to take control of the process and be proactive in getting the information, guidance and support you need. A long, happy, healthy later life is not an accident, it can be designed by you, for you.

• Jill Maclean is Age Scotland’s training manager