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Planning Retirement Online

Beyond the Headlines

Oct 2014


By Jeanne DavisJeanne Davis

Each month our resident writer and commentator Jeanne Davis goes behind recent news stories to comment on various ideas and subjects that have special resonance for our age group.

Written in her usual thought provoking and entertaining style, we know you will enjoy this addition every month

To view all of Jeanne's articles visit the Interest Index.

Good News For The 50+

Body confidence falls most in middle-aged women. That was the headline in The Guardian recently. “They have the lowest “body confidence”, warns Jo Swinson, the equality minister, “of any group and are becoming invisible in the public eye.”

Oh dear, I thought. That’s depressing. Only 57% were satisfied with their appearance. And then I read further. Middle age, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey that published these findings, includes ages 35-49. Hold on! That’s not middle age.

But 71% of women 50-64 were satisfied. Ah, that’s better. That’s the life span I consider middle age and what many women I know over 50 would too. So do other Government statistical opinion polls, notably the U.S.

When we’re 65 or over, the British survey says, 64% will be satisfied with their body image. That’s still pretty good. Even better than the 18-34 year olds who are just 63% confident when gazed upon.

Says Jo Swinson, on the impact of this study. “We don’t need to pigeonhole men in quite the same way. Learning to value women beyond their appearance and their fertility is an important part of women being equal in society.”

More Good News

Fewer women are enduring years of widowhood at the end of their lives," says Rosemary Bennett in The Times, “because record numbers of men are living into their 90s, according to official statistics.

“Over recent decades there have been relatively greater improvements in male mortality at older ages, the Office for National Statistics said.

Between 1980 and 2013, life expectancy at age 65 and over improved by 41 per cent for males compared with 23 percent for females . We would therefore expect a fall in the sex ratio of women to men at the oldest ages.”

The pain and misery felt by many widows, years after losing their husbands, is well documented, with many speaking out about the loneliness they have suffered. Esther Rantzen, whose husband, Desmond Wilcox, died 14 years ago, has said that she is simply “unfit to live alone.” Cilla Black, who was widowed in 1999 when her husband, Bobby Willis, died of lung cancer, has admitted that she could not bear to watch the TV drama about her life because of the feelings it stirred up.

While the closing of the gap between female and male longevity means that fewer women will suffer loneliness in later life, experts says there are also concerns. “One consequence is that older people, older women in particular, will end up with caring responsibilities. At the moment one in ten of those aged 85 or over is caring for someone, most often their partner, and half of those spend more than 50 hours a week caring. “We will see a big jump in those figures,” David Sinclair, director of the International Longevity Centre, said.

Care homes and assisted living accommodation may have to make adjustments, with most tending to offer only single accommodation.

Relationship counsellors may also have to recast their services with older couples in mind. Many are set up to help those in their forties.

“We know about the trend for silver splitters, divorces among people in their 60s and above,” Mr. Sinclair said. “People are going to have to spend a lot of time together, a challenge for both men and women. If it is to work, we may need to think about relationship support for this group.”

And More

People 50 or older who get six to nine hours of sleep a night think better than those who get fewer hours, according to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Sleep seems to strengthen the connections between brain cells, helping older adults process information more readily.

And researchers at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, found that poor sleepers show signs of premature skin ageing, including fine lines, uneven skin tone and reduced elasticity.

Says one renowned geriatrician, Harvey Jay Cohen, M.D., “Sleep seems to help our bodies repair all the things that might have gone wrong.”

So you might start counting the number of hours you’re tucked in. Good luck and sweet dreams.

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