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The current coronavirus health emergency has increased the importance of including a focus on your physical and mental health.
For many, retirement may be viewed as the relaxing and enjoyable reward for years of hard work. However, even in the best circumstances, some new retirees can fear a sudden lack of work-related purpose, interest and social connection.
Mental health conditions can affect anyone at any time, and may develop after a life change like starting retirement.
According to Beyond Blue, 10-15% of older Australians experience depression and around 10% experience anxiety, with the rate of depression climbing to 35% for people living in residential aged care.¹
Your physical health and your mental wellbeing are connected.
The Australian Government’s Head to Health website² says factors that support a meaningful life for people of all ages, but particularly people in retirement, include:
The amount of physical and mental activity you undertake, your diet, how socially engaged you are and your economic circumstances all can impact your physical and mental health.
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all Australians. However, the travel restrictions, self-isolation and limits on organised gatherings and visits to vulnerable groups, including residents of aged care facilities, may cause particular challenges for older Australians, including magnifying some of the vulnerabilities retirees already may feel.
Even discussing the coronavirus outbreak and self-isolation may be stressful and cause a range of emotions such as stress, anxiety, boredom, or low mood. Some people also may feel distressed by the constant news and overwhelming amount of information about the situation.
A survey by National Seniors Australia released in April 2020³ found the biggest concerns to retirees and older Australians during the coronavirus health emergency included:
Survey respondents expressed concern about doing essential shopping and accessing necessities when many supermarkets shelves were sometimes bare. Respondents also spoke of difficulties accessing entitlements and benefits.
The second biggest issue according to respondents was the impact on retirement funds and income. See how QSuper answered your questions on the impact of coronavirus and market volatility on members’ retirement savings.
Respondents said physical distancing and isolation meant there was an increasing need for connection and support, especially for people living alone as well as people who were suffering from isolation or being socially disconnected in the first place.
The risks of undertaking essential tasks in person, as well as restricted visits to loved ones at aged care facilities was also a key concern.
Source: National Seniors, 8 April 2020, Your feedback on COVID-19
It is important retirees may want to increase efforts to combat social isolation by staying in touch with friends and family.
It is possible to abide by social distancing limits help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and stay connected. The following suggestions for retirees and seniors4 may help:
Make a contact list of people to call and check in daily or every few days. It’s possible to find support by offering others support.
Videoconferencing tools such as Skype, FaceTime and Zoom can be just as important to having personal video conversations as getting work done. If you’re not feeling comfortable with the latest technology, send phone texts or emails with photos or go completely old school and send greeting cards and letters with photos.
The American Association of Retired Persons suggests calming techniques including:
Volunteering to help others can ease anxiety and offer a purpose. Despite the shutdown of many volunteer events and organisations, there are opportunities to volunteer during the COVID-19 emergency.
Visit Go Volunteer for volunteer opportunities that are currently available, both related to COVID-19 and for organisations who may have a shortage of volunteers due to COVID-19.
Use the opportunity and time you have to invest in your happiness.
You may like to consider activities you can do in isolation, but have the potential to connect you to others such as:
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1. Beyondblue, April 2018, Anxiety and depression in older people, at www.resources.beyondblue.org.au
2. Australian Government Department of Health, Meaningful Life, accessed 21 April 2020 at www.headtohealth.gov.au
3. National Seniors, 8 April 2020, Your feedback on COVID-19, accessed 21 April 2020 at www.nationalseniors.com.au
4. National Seniors, 24 March 2020, Getting through the COVID-19 crisis, accessed 21 April 2020 at www.nationalseniors.com.au
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