Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

DR MAX PEMBERTON: Dreaming of retiring? Be careful what you wish for

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How many of us are waiting for the day we retire? I know one person who is counting down on her laptop – even though it’s almost 20 years away! We sit and fantasize about lying and not being part of the rat race. No endless meetings, no annoying commute.

Instead, days stretching out before us with nothing to do but entertain ourselves. Hours of playing with the grandchildren or finally being able to spend some time on the allotment garden. Ultimate bliss.

Or is it? For some people, the grim reality of life after work doesn’t quite live up to the fantasy of retirement.

Over the years I have seen time and time again people looking forward to retiring, aging suddenly or getting sick almost as soon as they hang up their bike clips.

New research shows that the brains of people who work longer — not just up to age 67, but beyond — deteriorate more slowly (file image)

It’s as if their job, for all its troubles, was to keep them sharp and help them stay young, or at least feel young.

New research seems to support this. It showed that the brains of people who work longer — not just up to age 67, but beyond — deteriorate more slowly. Work may even ward off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Far from being the answer to all our problems, research from the German Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science suggests that retirement could, in fact, be bad for our health.

It’s a story I’ve heard many times from patients who have been referred to me with depression. Many have just retired and are drifting into a brave new world that they cannot negotiate.

They feel lost and alone and wonder what defines them now that they no longer have the status and social position their job afforded them. While some of the patients have actually become depressed, many of them are not depressed, they just have a hard time adjusting.

It’s a very normal reaction to a huge upheaval in your life, especially if your career has been a central and defining aspect of your personality.

This seems to be the case with many professionals such as lawyers, doctors, businessmen and women – probably, I think, because they have spent so many years plodding along, gradually climbing the ladder and dedicating many of the best years of their lives to their careers.

They made huge sacrifices to find that, when retirement age came, everything they achieved evaporated at the first glimpse of their P45.

But it’s not just high-flyers who feel the hump when they hit the ground when they retire.

dr.  Max (pictured) said that instead of spending our time wishing for the years until we retire, perhaps the answer is to focus our energies on finding a job we don't want to retire.

dr. Max (pictured) said that instead of spending our time wishing for the years until we retire, perhaps the answer is to focus our energies on finding a job we don’t want to retire.

All kinds of people – from postmen to architects – have told me that they have missed the loss of structure and routine. They lie in bed and wonder what the point of getting up is.

The days flow into each other, with one feeling exactly the same as the other.

The same thing happens with weeks, and weekends become meaningless. Inevitably, this stress has an effect on the body.

Research by the Institute for Economic Affairs points to a similar decline.

While there is some initial improvement in health after someone retires — partly because they have more time to do what they enjoy, such as hobbies — it has obvious long-term adverse effects for some people.

For example, the chance of depression increases by 40 percent and the chance of developing a physical health problem by 60 percent compared to people who are still working.

This is partly due to the fact that some are more sedentary when they retire than when they were employed.

Teachers and their households were no more at risk of hospitalization than comparable working-age adults in the 2020-21 academic year, according to a study in The BMJ. Unions were therefore wrong to oppose reopening and have no excuse to oppose schools remaining open in further waves.

However, the biggest factor is considered to be the psychological aspect of no longer working.

Other studies have found similar results, including one showing that those who were retired were 40 percent more likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to people of the same age who were still in work.

There is no doubt that the benefits of work are many – from providing routine, structure and self-esteem to providing friends and a social life.

People need to plan their retirements carefully to make sure they make up for the loss of these benefits in other ways.

But my experience is that retirement not only causes problems for the person retiring, it can also be a nightmare for their partner.

This is especially evident for those women who have stayed at home, raised their children, and did the housework.

They have their own schedule and way of doing things and then – wham! – their husband is retiring and they have this person around the house all day.

I’ve even seen some women find their husbands’ retirement so unbearable that it led to divorce.

Suddenly, they are forced to spend so much more time together that they realize they just can’t get along after all.

So, instead of spending our time wishing for the years until we retire, the answer might be to focus our energies on finding a job we don’t want to retire from.

Diamonds are forever – fame isn’t!

Daniel Craig (pictured) revealed he would lock himself up after suddenly becoming famous with James Bond

Daniel Craig (pictured) revealed he would lock himself up after suddenly becoming famous with James Bond

Before the pandemic, I often lectured in schools. I was shocked how, when I asked teens what they wanted to be, they often answered “famous.”

Younger generations really believe that celebrity is a career, and it will be rewarding to become famous. I find this deeply discouraging. It can be a gateway to wealth at times, but fame certainly has its drawbacks.

Daniel Craig was candid about this topic last week. Of his sudden fame with James Bond, he said: ‘I always locked myself and closed the curtains, I was in cloud cuckoo country. I was physically and mentally besieged.’ Of course there are worse things than getting one of the highest paying acting jobs. But I have some sympathy. I sat next to him in a restaurant a few years ago and noticed that everyone was watching him. A few were filming, and when he got up to go, some got up to talk to him. How tiring to be on show all the time. Your life is not your own. Maybe he’s the one who should be giving school lectures and telling kids not to aspire to fame, but to a much happier state of oblivion.

  • The Scouts set up a section called Squirrels for children ages four to five. It is intended to teach them new skills and encourage them to make friends and play outside. The Scouts are doing a great public service with this venture. This age group, especially children from poorer families, are bearing the brunt of Covid’s reversal of normalcy. Consider that a four-year-old has lived almost half of his life in the pandemic. They need to go outside, feel the sun on their faces and get wet, cold, dirty and smelly. They have to fall over and get up again. Cry, laugh and do everything else kids have to do. The cobwebs of lockdown need to be blown away well and truly.

Doctor Max prescribes…

Classical music

There has been a lot of research over the years suggesting that classical music can help in a variety of ways, from improving concentration and memory to lowering blood pressure. But a new study shows it can also improve your diet. It found that the music diminishes a taste for “indulgent, savory” foods like potato chips. If you’re new, I recommend Clemency Burton-Hill’s Year Of Wonder, which introduces you to a piece of classical music every day for a year. Much better than a Big Mac.

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