While there is much discussion about Singapore raising the retirement and re-employment ages this year, it is doubtful that it will be the last time this topic will be discussed for most millennial workers. With increasing lifespans and better healthcare, Singaporeans are living longer, healthier lives. However, despite more elderly in the workforce than just 10 years ago, working into your older age may not be desirable due to declining health. Because the retirement or the re-employment age may be raised again in the next 20-30 years, workers who just entered the workforce may have to start thinking about how to keep their health in check to work these longer years. Below, we discuss 4 affordable things you can start doing to stay mentally and physically healthy enough to be able to work into your 60's, 70's and beyond.
Focus on Prevention Rather Than Cure for Physical Ailments
It is no secret that as you age, you become at risk for illnesses and physical disability. It is estimated that 20% of people above the age of 60 have some sort of visual impairment and 6% of seniors exhibit 3 or more frailty symptoms, such as weakness, slowness, exchaustion, low physical activity and unintentional weight loss. While it is difficult to fully avoid health problems as you age, you can minimise your future medical and even health insurance costs by focusing on preventing illnesses that arise from lifestyle choices.
General Screenings Recommended for Average Individuals
For instance, you can decrease your chance of getting diabetes by being active, quitting smoking, eating healthy and limiting your alcohol intake. You should also get regular screenings to catch these diseases early on, as it is cheaper to treat them before they become full blown medical concerns. This is especially true with illnesses like diabetes, since poor control of the condition may lead to expensive complications like stroke, heart attacks and kidney failure. The screenings are quite cheap if done through the Screen for Life programme, at S$5 for Singaporean citizens and S$10-S$32 for Permanent Residents. You'll need different types of screenings as you get older, so it may be helpful to keep a note of what is recommended at each age bracket.
Physical activity has long been discussed as a way to stay healthy into old age. It keeps your muscles agile, your bones strong and your brain active. In addition to being something you can do to prevent illness, exercising reduces stress, improves your mood and keeps your body limber enough to move around at any age. Those who like to take exercise classes like yoga, dance or pilates can try exercise classes. These classes can also provide opportunities to socialise. This is an especially important component for the elderly, since socialising can reduce loneliness and isolation that can lead to productivity-killing mental illnesses like depression. ClassPass can be an affordable class subscription option, costing between S$59 to S$315 per month. On the other hand, gym memberships average about S$133 per month. Alternatively, MyActiveGYM is an affordable gym membership option, at S$30 per month.
However, as you get older, the type of activity you should do should change to match your physical capabilities. While high-octane activities such as biking, HIIT and fast-paced workouts like kickboxing can be great for younger adults, lowering your tempo is important as you age to prevent injury. It is worth noting that lower impact exercise can be just as effective as high impact exercise. In fact, a recent study showed that mindful exercises like Tai Chi and dancing can help improve cognitive function in the elderly. Thus, the mental benefits of staying active are just as important as the physical—happier adults with better self-esteem and higher confidence will be able to handle work-related changes and may see working for longer as an opportunity rather than a physical and mental burden.
Focus On Your Mental Health As Much As Your Physical Health
With more jobs putting a focus on intellectual labour as opposed to manual labour, it is going to be likely that you will have to keep your mental faculties in top shape. A healthy brain also makes it easier to deal with life's ups and downs, stressors at work and overall quality of life. To start, adopting a diet full of omega-3's, leafy greens and healthy fats can help your brain provide your brain with the necessary nutrients it needs to function. You should also consider taking time out of your day to practice meditation, peaceful thinking and controlling negative emotions.
Beyond dieting and practicing mindfulness, you should also try to keep learning new things and taking up hobbies as you age. While age-related mental ailments may not be completely preventable, studies have shown that keeping your mind busy with activities like volunteering, learning new skills and even teaching can slow mental decline. There is also a theory that these activities can increase your "cognitive reserve", a theorised brain function that may come in handy as you get older by compensating for age-related cognitive decline. You should keep up to date on the latest trends and technology in your current field if you wish to stay in it after retirement. The combination of your experience and seniority in the field, coupled with knowledge of current industry trends can make you an invaluable employee at any age.
Find a Hobby & Turn it Into a Profession
When asked what Singaporeans would most like to do after turning 62, the majority reported that they would like to pursue a passion or volunteer. However, unless your passion will also be bringing in income, it may be difficult to have enough money to completely stop working for the predicted 38 years of retirement. Even if you live to today's current life expectancy of 83 years, you will still need 20 years worth of liveable income. Considering Singapore is expensive to live in even for the working residents, it can be very difficult even for the most prudent savers to have saved enough passive retirement income to sustain themselves comfortably for that many years.