Exploring Retirement

Welcome to the March 2016 edition of Exploring Retirement!. We reached a milestone in January with over 2000 visitors to the Exploring Retirement website in a single month. We must be doing something right! Please do write and let us know your thoughts on Exploring Retirement. We would love to hear from you.

Each month we provide articles on well-being in retirement and also feature an activity to explore. Exploring Retirement is written by and for retired people, to assist active retirees make the most of their additional years of good health. No one knows it all, we are all explorers in this new land. We trust that you will continue to enjoy our monthly publication and please tell your friends about the site.

New writers are welcome, so if you are interested, please contact editor@exploringretirement.co.uk. For ideas to write about, have a glance at the July 2014 issue of Exploring Retirement, available by clicking on "Past Issues" in the navigation bar on the left of this page. These are only suggestions, please contact us if you have a different topic you would like to share your thoughts on.

Writing team

We have three regular contributors on our writing team. Here they are with a brief note explaining their principal areas of interest:

John Copelton, EditorDr John Copelton - well-being in retirementMichael McSorley, contributorMichael McSorley - lively comment on sport and cultureJeannette Lewis, contributorJeannette Lewis - inspiring ideas on retirement living

Retirement - avoiding a sedentary lifestyle

The link between illness and sitting first emerged in the 1950s, when researchers found London bus drivers were twice as likely to have heart attacks as their bus conductor colleagues. More recently a study carried out by the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Department of Health found that the risk of dying from cancer increased by 45% for men and 28% for women as a consequence of inactivity. The risk of dying from heart disease was 52% higher for men and 28% higher for women, while the risk of dying from respiratory illnesses was 92% higher for men and 75% higher for women.

Research into activity in retirement

Most people today are aware that it is important to keep physically active when they retire and many of us try to do so by taking up pursuits such as golf or tennis. Gym membership is also increasing among the over 60's, so are we doing enough?

A 1991 study in the West of Scotland examined the patterns of physical activity of 699 participants who were aged 60 when interviewed and followed up four to five years later. A substantial amount of physical activity occurred at work but was lost by those who had retired, for while those who were not working were more physically active at home or at leisure than those in work, the majority of the sample did too little physical activity when retired to compensate for the loss of work-based activity.

Stuart Biddle, Professor of Physical Activity and Health at Loughborough University, believes people who take regular exercise may still be broadly sedentary. "If someone goes to the gym or walks for 30 to 45 minutes a day, but sits down the rest of the time, then they are still described as having a sedentary lifestyle. All-day movement is now seen as being just as important for the maintenance of good health as traditional exercise."

Some older adults (aged 65 and over) are known to spend 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down, making them the most sedentary population group. "It could be partly due to reduced functionality or ill health, but there are also social norms expecting those in later years to 'slow down' and rest," says Professor Biddle. "That's not helpful." Older adults should aim to minimise the time they spend in extended periods of sitting each day. "Sitting needs breaking up," says Professor Biddle. "Long periods of TV should be avoided, and you should try to do activities that involve light movement and being 'on your feet' as much as possible. "Do some tasks standing, like having coffee and chats, or even writing a letter - Ernest Hemingway wrote his novels standing."

Tips to reduce sitting time:

"Doing something is better than doing nothing; doing more is better than doing less (up to a reasonable point). Our own inactivity is the greatest challenge facing our public health agenda".

Walter Bortz, MD, former co-chairman of the American Medical Association's Task Force on Aging.

Featured Activity - Older People's Playgrounds

In the UK there are now more people over the age of 60 than there are young people under 18. Despite this, our public gymnasia and our swimming pools continue to focus mainly on the young. Of course young people need to be encouraged to exercise but so do older people too! According to Dr Walter Bortz "Exercise for young people is optional, exercise for old people is an imperative."

The thinking behind older people's playgrounds is to encourage older people to exercise in a pleasant, peaceful outdoor environment. Many older people find indoor gyms expensive and all those toned muscular bodies can be intimidating, especially if you have let yourself get out of shape. Part of the thinking behind these outdoor gyms is also to encourage social interaction. Although the facilities are being targeted at older people, there is no restriction on younger people using them, which surely is a good thing. We need to be seen as a normal part of a health conscious society and not a geriatric "fringe".

Older people's playgrounds are not a new idea; they have long existed and been popular in Asian countries like China and Japan. In fact in Japan, with its falling birth rate and high life expectancy, you are more likely to find a pensioner exercising with friends in a park than young children playing. Berlin was the first major European city to open an older people's playground in 2008 shortly followed by Manchester, England.

Older people's playgrounds, if they are to work, need amenities such as local toilets, drinking fountains, comfortable seating and easy access to the park. All of these things need to be carefully considered beforehand. There may also be an initial shyness about being seen using the machines. One idea might be to encourage local community groups to visit the playground and use the equipment.

Here is a short clip reporting on the opening of the playground in Manchester.


Michael McSorley

In this issue Michael shares his fascination with words with a look at the many influences that have contributed to the richness of the English language. To read his latest posting, click here.

Jeanette Lewis

This month Jeanette writes about social media and it's potential for connecting us to others, promoting our psychological well-being. To read Jeanette's thoughts, click here.


Reflections is intended to showcase short pieces of poetry or prose that reflect on our life experience. This month features another poem by my late friend and colleague, Philip Clarke. As becoming the season of returning life, Phil is in an upbeat mood.

To read "Spring", by Philip Clarke, click here.


This months our cinema goers have been to see "Trumbo", staring Bryan Cranston. To read their review, click here