The Talk: Secret to a longer retirement

Author: Jack Tatar |

As you know from reading my books and my recent series here on “The Talk” between adult children and their parents, I believe that there are “Four Keys” to living a long and safe retirement.

Obviously all retirements depend upon having a solid financial foundation and fortunately there are many resources (including writers on this site and working with qualified financial advisors) available to help you to achieve this (although there is no substitute for saving and investing wisely).

It’s also vital that you consider two other “keys” as well — health and mental attitude — in any planning for, and discussions about, retirement and your later life.

Before I get into the fourth key — and it’s a critical one to consider for all in or planning on retirement — let me take you to an actual island called Ikaria.

[The following is an excerpt from my new book, “Having the Talk: The Four Keys to Your Parents’ Safe Retirement” about the tight-knit community on Ikaria that has such a history of longevity that researchers have gathered to unravel their secret.]

“So far, studies show the people on Ikaria reach the ripe old age of 90 at two-and-a-half times the rate of Americans, with men at four times the rate of their American counterparts. As well, the onset of chronic illness such as heart disease and cancer is delayed in Ikaria by up to ten years, and dementia sets in at only 25% the rate it does here in the States. Not only do these island inhabitants live longer, but they live healthier, too.

“Could it just be all that healthy Mediterranean food and fresh Aegean air? Apparently, it’s not. On a neighboring island, just over nine miles away, the longevity rate is much lower than on Ikaria, and the onset of chronic illness arrives earlier, much like in America. Something else is at work.

“The diet on Ikaria supports longer and healthier living, and is heavy in fresh vegetables, including wild greens, as well as potatoes and beans , while low in dairy and red meat. However, these factors alone aren’t enough to explain the much higher longevity combined with better health on this remote island. The answer appears to be in another category altogether, and this has proven to be true in other pockets of high longevity.

“The people on Ikaria have a deeply knit social structure; everyone contributes to his or her community in some way. You’re expected to. It’s simply the way they live, even if it’s just a matter of growing a garden and sharing the proceeds. Almost every evening, people gather and drink wine, relate stories, and relax friends. It’s this deep connection with other people that researchers are beginning to believe is the secret ingredient for longevity when combined with a healthy lifestyle. And it’s this deep social connection that is the fourth key to your parent’s safe retirement.

The Japanese use the word ikigai to describe “the reason for which you get out of bed.” This is the same idea. When you have a healthy social structure, you have a sense of purpose and belonging.

“Dan Buettner, who reported on Ikaria for The New York Times, wrote that ‘as soon as you take culture, belonging, purpose or religion out of the picture, the foundation for long healthy lives collapses. The power of such an environment lies in the mutually reinforcing relationships among lots of small nudges and default choices.’ ”

As I also learned from my own research and personal experiences and which I documented in my first book,“Safe 4 Retirement: the Four Keys to a Safe Retirement,”the necessity to stay involved by creating and nurturing your own social network is that fourth Key to creating a longer and safer retirement.

So, how should this play into the “talk” that you have with your parents about retirement and later life issues?

In the upcoming final article of this series on “The Talk,” I’ll provide you with the items that should be discussed between adult children and their parents regarding the need to stay involved and build and nurture one’s social network.

It could be the difference in extending your parents’ time in retirement.

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