Looking after yourself
Being over 55 means retirement is probably in your sights. It
can be an exciting time: a permanent break from work and a chance
to open the door to new activities and opportunities. But for some,
retirement can come prematurely or unexpectedly because of illness
Whatever your situation, it's important to look after your
health, both physical and mental.
A new way of living
It's normal to find the transition from work to retirement quite
challenging. Many people feel lost after they stop work and wonder
what to do with all the 'spare' time they now have. After a few
months of being footloose and work-free, you might feel a bit
listless, even depressed.
If you and your partner are both retired, you might find
yourselves spending more time together than ever before - for
better or worse. Taking up some separate activities can be a
healthy way of giving each other some breathing space.
Get out and about
If you're not quite ready to retire or want to keep yourself
occupied after you retire, consider:
- Trial retirement: Think about taking extended
long service leave, unpaid leave or leave at half pay, to see if
you like being out of the workforce before you make the final
decision. See if you can draw on your superannuation without
retiring permanently. Read about transition to retirement.
- Other work: Take up part-time, casual or
volunteer work. This can bring in some extra cash, teach you some
new skills and introduce you to new people.
- Vocational training and further study: If
you're keen to extend yourself, study or training can add structure
to your days. The University of the
Third Age runs a range of courses for older people, and many
universities offer mature-age entry to a wide range of
- Starting a small business: Can you develop
your hobby or use your skills to supplement your retirement income?
While this might be an opportunity to take up a new challenge, if
you're new to running a small business you should consider
professional financial advice.
- Taking up a new hobby: Finding a new hobby can
be a great way to keep physically and mentally active, and even
make some new friends. You can join a local club or even start one
of your own. Whether you want to play bowls or chess, go swimming,
fishing, learn a new language, or take up a more adventurous hobby,
there are countless ways to spend your time enjoying your
Take care of yourself
To make the most of your retirement, it's important to do
everything you can to stay mentally and physically healthy for as
long as possible. Here are some ways you can look after yourself to
make the most of your later years:
50% of physical decline associated with old age is due to a lack
of physical activity, so staying active is important.
- Preventative health checks: Regular health
checks are important at all ages, but even more so as we get older.
Talk to your doctor about what tests might be appropriate for you,
and check if you are eligible for any health-related government benefits.
- Healthy eating: A balanced diet is an
important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Drink plenty of
water, eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and limit your
alcohol, salt, saturated fat and sugar. The Australian Government's
Eat for Health website has lots of
advice on eating well.
- Connecting with others: Research shows that
older people who have strong relationships often feel more
satisfied with life, have delayed progression of dementia, and are
more independent. For some suggestions on how you can expand your
social network, check out Beyond Blue's
Connections matter: Helping older people stay socially active
- Get some exercise: Doing physical activity
does not just help you to keep active but it lifts your spirits.
Find something you enjoy, like swimming, playing tennis, going for
a walk, or doing yoga or tai chi, and reap the benefits. Read the
Choose health: Be active
booklet for ideas on staying active.
Take advantage of
These government benefits can help you save on your health
expenses when you're older.
- Commonwealth Seniors Health Card: Once you've
reached pension age and even if you're a self-funded retiree, you
might be eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors
Health Card, which gives you access to cheaper prescriptions
and possibly bulk-billed GP consultations.
- Medicare Safety Net: If you and your family
see many doctors and specialists during the year, the Medicare Safety Net will
reduce your out-of-pocket expenses once you've spent a certain
- Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Safety Net
Card: The government has created a 'safety net' threshold
to help families with the cost of medicines. Once you spend up to
the threshold, medicines will be less expensive or free for the
rest of the calendar year. Apply for your Medicare PBS Safety Net Card at your
- Early detection programs and free
immunisations: Older Australians can get free vaccinations
against influenza and pneumococcal disease; free screenings for
bowel cancer; free breast screenings and Pap smears for women; and
free prostate cancer tests for people who qualify. Find out about
government cancer screenings or visit your
doctor for more information.
- Annual health assessment: Once you turn 75, or
55 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, you are entitled to
a free annual health assessment from your doctor (if they do not
bulk bill, you may have to pay the gap).
- Home medication review: This free review helps
people living at home and taking more than five medications a day
to use their medicines more effectively and avoid unwanted effects.
Talk to your GP or pharmacist if you're interested in a
Finally, check if you are paying too much for health insurance.
If it's been a while since you checked your benefits, you could
save money by reassessing whether your current plan matches your
needs. Compare registered private health funds on the Private Health Insurance
Looking after yourself as you get older is
important. Visit your doctor regularly and stay as active as you
can. Taking care of your mental and emotional wellbeing is just as
Last updated: 18 Oct 2017