Wellbeing articles

Retirement means not only coping with changes to your finances, but also thinking about the impact your retirement will have on your family life and your mental and physical wellbeing.

If you’ve recently retired or are approaching your retirement, have you thought about how you’ll keep your mind active outside of a work environment? With brain power, many experts believe it really is a case of use it or lose it. So, if you don’t keep yours ticking over, could it be a blow for your cognitive powers? While some people believe that retirement comes at an age when a decline in memory and brain power occurs naturally, many experts disagree. A recent study published in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences suggests that the more you want to use your brain and the more you enjoy doing so, the more likely you are to stay sharp as you get older. The study also found that doing a variety of different cognitive activities helps to boost brain power after retirement – which means for the best results, you should seek out lots of different ways to challenge your mind. Doing crosswords and other puzzles such as Sudoku can help keep your mind active. But there are also many other types of brain training games and exercises you can access free on the internet. Here are a few you can try right now: BrainHQ is a brain fitness training programme developed by neuroscientists. It claims to improve how your brain functions with dozens of games and exercises that target memory, attention, brain speed, intelligence and even people skills. Again, you can try it for free or subscribe for full access. Happy Neuron claims to stimulate the five main cognitive brain functions, namely memory, attention, language, executive functions (reasoning, logical thinking) and visual and spatial skills. Sign up and play the games for free for seven days. Merriam-Webster – the US dictionary publisher, also offers a range of more conventional online quizzes and games. Be careful however, if you try the spelling games, as they’re based on American, as opposed to British, spelling. If your memory isn’t quite what it used to be, read our article Easy ways to boost your memory for tips on how to keep your mind more agile. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 23, 2019

If you forget someone's name the minute after you've been introduced to them, you may also struggle to keep important facts and numbers in your head. As for your desk, it's probably littered with post-it notes reminding you of dates, meetings and other appointments you might otherwise forget. Sound familiar? Well you're not alone. Most people struggle to remember everything, thanks to our ever-busier lifestyles. So if you've ever walked into a room only to wonder what on earth you went there for, here are some memory-boosting tips to keep your mind agile: Make up some mnemonics A mnemonic is a tool that helps you to remember things. Most people associate mnemonics with acronyms, where a word spells out the initial letters of a sentence, phrase or other information (or vice versa ). If you studied music at school, for instance, you may have learned the notes on the lines of the treble stave – EGBDF – as 'every good boy deserves favour'. Or if you were an astronomy student, you may have learned a mnemonic for the order of the planets ('my very excited mother just served us nine pies' for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto). But there are different types of mnemonics. Rhymes are a good example. Most people know the mnemonic that helps with spelling, 'i before e except after c'. The rhyme that starts '30 days hath September', on the other hand, is a great aide memoir for remembering the number of days in the months of the year. You can make up your own mnemonics for things you find hard to remember. Think of a simple rhyme to remember someone's name – for instance, Sally from the valley, or Sam likes ham. You could also use a visual mnemonic to remember someone's name. So if you're introduced to someone called George Woods, imagine him with a tree growing out of his head. It sounds ridiculous, but it works. Train your brain Many people find that mind games such as crosswords and Sudoku help keep their memory sharp. Similarly, learning a musical instrument can help because it makes fresh connections in your brain – in fact, learning any kind of new skill is an effective brain booster. Get talking Researchers from the University of Zurich claim talking to someone may give your memory a boost, even more so than doing puzzles and other brain training exercises. Writing in the journal The Cochrane Library, the scientists analysed a number of different studies involving volunteers taking part in memory tests. They found that many achieved higher scores after taking part in discussions. So if you live on your own and your work doesn't involve that much conversation, pick up the phone and chat to a friend. Use repetition Routine may be boring, but it can help you to remember things. If you have tablets to take on a regular basis, take them at the same time of day, every day – with your morning coffee or evening cup of tea, for example. It will soon become a habit. Repetition works for other things too, such as repeating someone's name soon after you've been introduced to them (saying their name out loud will help you to remember it). Learn to dance Some scientists believe learning dance steps can help keep your memory sharp. A report from the Einstein College of Medicine in New York, for example, followed 500 people aged 60 plus who took part in a variety of exercises including swimming, cycling, walking and dancing. But only those who went dancing were found to have a lower risk of mental deterioration. Then again, any form of exercise will help your heart to pump blood more effectively, which means a better supply of blood to your brain. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate activity exercise per day. Eat brain food A diet rich in fruit and vegetables can give your brain the antioxidants and nutrients it needs to perform effectively. Omega-3 fatty acids – found mainly in oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and pilchards – are thought to be helpful when it comes to maintaining brain function too. Herbal medicine experts also believe a supplement made from a plant called ginkgo biloba helps to boost blood circulation to the brain, which may improve your memory as well as your concentration. Get plenty of sleep If you have an important event coming up – an exam or an interview, for instance – make sure you get a good night's sleep beforehand. Scientists from the University of Geneva believe that sleep helps your brain to consolidate new experiences and learning, as well as to boost your memory. That's because when you sleep, connections between nerve cells in your brain are strengthened, and that may help you to learn and remember things more easily. Find out more about boosting your memory by reading our article Does your mind need a spring clean? Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 23, 2019

Now that winter has finally loosened its grip, it's time for many people to give their homes a top-to-bottom spring clean. And as anyone who has ever had a major clear-out at home knows, it can give you a huge sense of satisfaction. But what about spring cleaning your mind? One good reason to do just that is to improve your memory. According to researchers at Concordia University in Montreal, as you get older you have so much more information to remember. So having the odd memory lapse may have nothing to do with the first signs of dementia, it could be that your mind is simply bursting at the seams. The researchers carried out tests with adults of all ages, and discovered the older volunteers had less working memory than the younger ones. But reducing 'clutter' in the mind by practising relaxation exercises could help, they concluded. Other experts believe that holding on to negative thoughts from past experiences can cause unnecessary stress. But how exactly do you declutter – or detox – your mind? Here are a few ideas... Learn how to meditate This doesn't have to mean sitting cross-legged on the floor and burning incense. Meditation can just mean closing your eyes for a minute or two and relaxing. Make yourself comfortable (sit, stand or lie down, if you feel like it), close your eyes and listen to the sound of your breathing. Don't worry if your mind starts to wander off – if it does, just keep breathing slowly and deeply, and bring your attention back to your breath. Get some fresh air Now that the weather is improving, there's no better way to revitalise your body and your mind by taking a walk outdoors, especially if you can walk in a natural setting. Go for a hike in the country, walk along the beach, or visit a local park or green space. Keep a notebook Write down all the thoughts that are swirling around your head – such as details you need to remember or things that are worrying you. Your mind may find it easier to let go of worries if they have been written down. And the things you really do need to remember – such as when bills need to be paid and other important dates – will be there in your notebook when you need them. Turn off your phone Spend an hour each day clearing your mind. Switch off your phone and other gadgets that distract you, such as the TV, radio and computers. Try not to fill your head with more information that isn't essential, and you'll feel better for it. Get rid of negativity Try to release all those thoughts in your mind that lead to blaming and complaining, and remember you can choose to be more positive if you want to. You'll be surprised at how much more free your mind will feel if you do. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 23, 2019

Staying active as you get older is vital to good health and it also helps you feel better. Finding an exercise regime which works well for you and doing it regularly can help reduce the risk of or delay the onset of diabetes and heart trouble. Exercise also helps to reduce arthritis pain but it’s also good for your psychological wellness and can help with anxiety and depression. When you age your muscles tend to get weaker, you develop more aches and pains and can become more susceptible to falls and injuries. This can often make you feel less motivated to exercise but it’s important to stay active and keep healthy. Why should I exercise? Many studies have shown that staying physically active can slow down some aspects of the ageing process, such as finding it more difficult to get around. Starting an exercise regime is a great way to make new friends and improve the overall quality of life. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing: Heart disease and stroke Diabetes Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and back pain High blood pressure Some cancers, such as bowel cancer Exercise can also improve your overall balance, muscle strength and tone meaning that you’re less likely to lose your balance and fall or have an accident. It can also improve: Flexibility Mobility, speed and stamina Cognitive abilities, such as memory and reasoning skills Sense of wellbeing Quality of life Making a start Fitness levels can vary from person to person - some people take part in regular exercise whereas some may find it difficult to get out of a chair without assistance. If you haven’t exercised in a while then the thought of it can be a bit daunting. Make a start with something you enjoy, you can include everyday activities or structured exercise and sport. You can also adapt your routine to suit your personal circumstances; some ways of doing this are outlined below: Walk or cycle to work/social activities etc. Take all small opportunities to be active – use the stairs, do manual tasks Play a sport, go to the gym or go swimming two to three times a week Walk instead of driving short distances, or get off the bus one or two stops earlier than usual Organise an exercise or walking group with your friends or family At the weekend go for a bike ride or do some DIY or gardening Join a cycling or exercise club If you haven’t exercised for a long time take it easy by exercising for a short period of time and gradually increase this by five minutes until you achieve your target. Don’t try to do too much too quickly because you may lose motivation and stop. Once you’re into a routine you will need to slowly increase the amount of activity to build up you fitness levels and strength. Some key exercises to complete on a regular basis are: Stretching - consists of stretching and holding different joint and muscle groups for 10 to 30 seconds each to keep your body limber and improve flexibility. Daily stretching is the basis for any exercise programme.  Strengthening - involves working the muscle against resistance. They can be done with or without weights. Resistance training strengthens the muscle and helps to build muscle tissue and reduce age-related muscle loss. Balance – performing balance exercises can help you maintain your stability and reduce the chances of a fall. Key exercises include: standing on one foot, heel raises and weight shifts. Tai Chi has also been linked to preventing falls. Download balance exercises from Livestrong Conditioning (aerobic exercise)- improves cardiovascular fitness. It makes your heart and blood vessels healthier, prevents disability, and improves your mood and well-being. Low impact conditioning exercises include walking,swimming, cycling or using an elliptical machine. You should aim to do 20-30 minutes at least 3 times per week If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or achy joints then doing regular exercise can reduce pain and keep your bones strong (thinning of the bones can be a problem with rheumatoid arthritis). There are 3 types of exercise which are best for people with rheumatoid arthritis – stretching, strengthening and conditioning. You should avoid doing any jogging and heavy weight-lifting because they can put a lot of stress on joints. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 09, 2019

For most of us retirement is a period of major change. So much so it can put considerable strain on even the most rock-solid of relationships between a spouse or partner. So, in an effort to maintain and strengthen those relationships as you approach retirement, we recommend two things: effective planning and open, honest communication. Here are some ideas to go about it. Create a ‘dreams’ list Make lists of the all the things you would like to do, both individually and as a couple. Don’t rule anything out. If you want to climb Mount Everest put it on the list. You’ll have fun planning what you want to do and how to do it. Talk your lists through together, taking care not to criticise one another’s plans and dreams. Compromise may be needed. And as a result you may find you have goals you want to achieve separately, as well as things you want to do together. Be clear on your expectations for retirement. It will make life easier in the long run. The next step is to explore the possible costs associated with achieving your goals. Work your finances through together. That way you’ll both know what you can expect. Plus, you’ll be better able to deal with challenges should they arise. By preparing together you’ll reduce the potential impact and strain of money worries. Maintain wider social circles It’s also important to invest time in relationships and interests beyond your partner or spouse. This will give you both the space you need, and it can help avoid potentially damaging dependencies. With an independent social circle and series of activities you’ll be able to maintain your own identity in retirement. Of course, it’s entirely possible to create a new social circle. And it is recommended you do. Try volunteering or getting involved with local groups or societies. You’ll stay engaged and your skills will be put to good use. Top tips for enjoying retirement together Show an interest: You may have different hobbies, and enjoy doing some things apart. But taking an interest in the activities your partner enjoys could bring you closer together. Ask questions. Perhaps get involved every now and then. But certainly acknowledge their passion - even if you don’t feel quite the same way The little things that mean the most: Spending more time together could lead to you both taking one another for granted. Making a conscious effort with little things - like saying ‘thank you’ or holding hands when you’re out for a walk. These small gestures say a lot, and show your partner how much you care Try new things: It’s easy to settle in to a routine – particularly if you’ve been in a relationship for some time. So why not try something different? What about surfing, wine tasting or cheese making? A sense of adventure could strengthen and renew your relationship Talk: Be truthful with one another. Tell your partner how you feel. Voice your concerns. And encourage your partner to do the same. Being open and honest helps to avoid misunderstandings and assumptions that can lead to disagreement Retirement brings change. And that can be daunting. But it also offers a host of wonderful opportunities. And through open and honest communication, and by planning ahead, you and your partner can take full advantage of them all. And you’ll enjoy this exciting new phase of life. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 09, 2019

Getting older doesn't automatically mean slowing down and putting your feet up 24/7. Indeed, health experts encourage the over-50s to stay physically active, as it can help boost health and energy levels, as well as increase the likelihood of staying independent into your 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. Many adults aged 65 and older spend, on average, 10 hours or more every day sitting or lying down. But being this inactive can increase your risk of obesity, heart disease and make you more likely to have a fall. Staying active, on the other hand, is thought to lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia. If you keep moving, it can also help reduce pain and your risk of mental illness. Physical activity is anything that gets you moving - whether that's walking, doing the gardening, playing with your grandchildren or taking part in a fun run for charity. The current official recommendation is to do 150 minutes of moderate activity every week - such as: Brisk walking Cycling Mowing the lawn Playing doubles tennis How you split up those 150 minutes is up to you. The government also recommends doing some activities each week that help strengthen your muscles, such as: Working out with weights Doing heavy gardening Carrying heavy shopping What about HIIT? High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of exercise that has become popular in recent years. This involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with longer intervals of recovery time where you move more slowly and gently, which helps lower your heart rate. This may include sprinting or cycling at full speed for a short time - a minute or less in some cases - followed by a longer but much lower-intensity period of activity to let you get your breath back. Hill walking is another example of interval training - your heart and lungs will work hard when you walk uphill, then your heart rate will slowly return to normal while going downhill. The principle behind HIIT is that it takes a fraction of the time to achieve heart and lung fitness compared with more traditional forms of moderate-intensity exercise, with followers claiming a few short HIIT sessions reap similar or even better fitness rewards than doing the recommended 150 minutes of brisk walking, swimming or cycling each week. This makes it ideal for people who don't have much time, or who simply don't want to work out for longer periods at a time. HIIT safety in the over-50s But are HIIT and other similar forms of intense, vigorous exercise safe as you age and get older? Experts suggest those in their 50s and even 60s who have no underlying health issues and who already have a good level of fitness should be able to take part in vigorous training without any problems. Norwegian scientists, whose study was published in the medical journal Circulation, asked whether or not HIIT is safe or risky for older people with heart problems, such as heart failure and a history of heart attacks. Dividing almost 5,000 volunteers into 2 groups, they assigned 1 group to take part in a moderate-intensity exercise programme and the other in HIIT. After an average of 36 exercise sessions, there was 1 fatal cardiac arrest among the moderate-intensity exercise group and 2 non-fatal cardiac arrests in the HIIT group. As a result of such a low rate of cardiac events, the researchers concluded that both types of exercise are safe for heart patients, with HIIT found to have particular benefits for those with coronary artery disease. A review of 10 studies on HIIT published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine also found older adults with conditions ranging from coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, obesity and heart failure achieved improved cardiorespiratory fitness by doing HIIT compared with those taking part in traditional moderate-intensity exercise programmes. Before you start… As with any type of exercise, it's essential to consult your doctor or physician as well as GP if you want to embark on HIIT, especially if you're getting older, you're overweight or obese, you have an existing medical problem or you haven't been very active for a while. Your doctor, physician or GP can advise whether or not you're fit enough to start an interval training programme - if not, they may prescribe an age-appropriate beginners' exercise programme to start with. Whatever type of training you want to do, start slowly and gradually. As your fitness level improves, the better chance you'll have of being able to push yourself towards higher-intensity activities - without putting yourself at risk. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 09, 2019