What is the key to a happy retirement?

News & Insights

MoneyPlus Features Team

19th August 2016 at 8:42am

A new survey claims to have found the answer and no it’s not some magic elixir or pots of cash, it’s something much simpler – companionship.

Sure, having a nice nest egg and good health helps, but having a partner or close family nearby seems to fuel the feel-good factor in retirement.

The recipe for fulfilment

The research showed more than two thirds (68 per cent) of over-60’s say they are happy with their lives and 69 per cent of those asked said that having a partner was a key factor.

Family plays its part too with 58 per cent stating that close family living nearby was important.

And 61 per cent said loving where they live is vital to one’s happiness.

So if you love where you live, it’s close to your loved ones and you’ve a partner in your life to share your retirement with, then it seems happy days.

But what if you can’t tick all these boxes, are you destined to be a miserable 60 something?

A special friend

Not at all, as you’ve got options on how you can help fill any companionship void if it’s so important.

One option being getting yourself a pet.

Research consistently shows that owning a pet in retirement can be extremely beneficial to your health and happiness.

Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation says that caring for a pet can improve a person’s well-being: “The bond between you and your pet can be as strong as between people.”

And data from animal charity Cats Protection found that owning a cat can have a myriad of positive effects on older adults.

The charity surveyed almost 1000 over 55s and found that 70 per cent reported their cat made them laugh at least once a day and had the ability to lead to social interaction.

A popular choice

And this desire to adopt a furry new friend to help share our lives after work appears popular. New research from Saga reveals that 63 per cent of dog owners over 50 acquired man’s best friend after they retired and 43 per cent of cat owners over 50 said the same.

Kevin McMullan, head of Pet Insurance at Saga, commented: “Retiring can be a shock to your system as you lose your routine when you stop working.

So it’s not surprising that our research shows many of the Saga generations think that entering retirement can be the perfect time to get a pet. As well as helping to restore a routine, owning a pet can give a boost to your health and be great for your social life.”

Pets do not only provide company or a chance to widen your social circle; there appear to be health benefits too. Owning a pet has  been known to help you relax, reduce stress levels, speed up recovery after an illness, and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, making you less likely to suffer from a heart attack.

Picking your pet

But before you rush off and purchase a canine companion or feline friend there are a few things to consider first. Pets4Homes, an online pet search site, recommend when choosing a pet to accompany you in retirement you consider size, health issues, and age.

“Size is an important factor simply because a larger dog might accidentally knock an older person over. However too small you might end up tripping over your little canine friend. This means choosing a dog that is somewhere in-between, one which is not too heavy to be picked up or have sitting on your lap when it’s cuddle time.

“The other thing you need to think about are any health issues that certain breeds are prone to suffer from. The last thing you want is to have to cope with a little four-legged friend that is going to get sick a little further down the line. A lot of pedigree breeds do tend to suffer from congenital health issues whereas mongrels are usually a lot more robust health-wise.”

They would also recommend considering an older dog instead of a younger one as “their energy levels will be lower and, with an adult dog, any health issues should already be apparent so there would be no unwelcome surprises later on.”

The village people

We mentioned earlier how loving where you live and having family close by were important too, but what if you can’t tick either of these boxes?

A retirement village might be worth some thought. Retirement villages are designed for people aged over 55 as an alternative housing and lifestyle option. And in recent years they have become increasingly popular with people who feel they need more security, support or company, but who want to maintain their independence.

Generally designed as larger developments, with 100 or more properties, they aim to offer independent flats or bungalows together with a range of social, sport and leisure facilities and retail outlets, sometimes together with high levels of care and support that can be adapted to residents’ needs.

Staying active

But have no fear, moving into a retirement village needn’t mean you’ll need to give up a fun-loving or busy lifestyle.

They may be designed for older residents but are by no means quiet, boring places to live. With gyms, restaurants and social clubs on site there’s always plenty to do and fun ways to socialise and keep fit.

Residents can be as active as they like, but know they are living in a secure environment, often in the beautiful British countryside. And if, as you grow older, you need help in day to day living, some developments can help you stay in your own home by providing carers.

A healthy option

And it would appear there may be health benefits too. Elderly people living in retirement villages are less likely to experience loneliness and isolation, a study has found.

These retirement communities, where you can live among other people your own age and get involved in a range of activities, can have a “major impact in promoting residents’ quality of life,” the International Longevity Centre found. It claims residents have a higher quality of life and feel more in control of things.

Personal access

So if the research is to be believed and companionship really is the key, you’ve certainly got options on how you go about unlocking your happy retirement.

If you have some tips for happy retirement, we’d love to hear them. Join the conversation and follow us on twitter @StandardLifeUK and Facebook.

The information in this blog or any response to comments should not be regarded as financial advice.