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Life begins at retirement

AS they get to the end of their working life, many people wonder how they will fill their time. Luckily there are plenty of options. With the number of older people increasing, more facilities are available to those who want to keep busy and enjoy themselves in retirement.

One of life’s ironies is that after retirement people have plenty of free time, but generally less energy and disposable income than in their youth.

Thankfully there is a growing awareness in the leisure industry that older people want, and need, to keep fit and healthy. As such the range of options available which are tailored to the older generation are increasing all the time.

Sports centres, fitness studios and swimming pools are all aware of the demand, and now provide specialist classes for those aged 50+, not least because they are an important target group for daytime and off-peak access.

Tutors and trainers in charge of these classes are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of older people and can encourage participation at an appropriate level.

For example, joining a gym to pump iron is no longer a matter of just turning up and following the old ‘no pain, no gain adage’. Individual training programmes are now drawn up by instructors who calculate exactly what aerobic and weightlifting activity is correct and safe.

Badminton is another activity suited to the older generation. Not only does it get you fit, but is a unisex sport which helps with the social dimension. Check with your local sports centre about classes.

Swimming is another excellent exercise, because the cradling effect of the water means it is a non-impact activity. Of course, you don’t just have to trawl up and down the pool. Water-based classes such as aquarobics are becoming increasingly popular.

Most municipal pools run by the local authority give reasonable discounts to pensioners.

If sport is not your thing, but you want to keep active, then dance classes can be just the thing. Many of the current retirement generation will probably already be proficient at ballroom styles of dancing, but there are alternatives.

One of the fastest growing is linedancing and you don’t even have to wear a Stetson to do it. Easy to pick up and involving basic movement in a social setting, this activity is not particularly demanding as a fitness regime, but does involve co-ordination and has moves similar to those found in aerobics classes.

If you want something a little more home-based then DIY and gardening have become huge leisure-based industries. These are both hobbies which require concentration, planning and attention to detail – all skills which are usually associated with work, but could equally be applied in the home.

However, you may want to try something totally new and exercise your brain into the bargain.

These days education colleges are very much aware of the importance of adult education and the range of courses available, either as night classes or as study towards some sort of academic qualification , is enormous.

Almost anything goes, from lessons in Indian head massage or the Spanish language to pottery or literary criticism groups on the works of TS Eliot.

If you want to tackle something bigger, like a degree, then money becomes more of an issue as you would be responsible for paying course fees which could run into several thousands of pounds. On the plus side, universities are taking on increasing numbers of mature students, which means that you can study with both younger people and those closer in age.

Finally, you could look to the future and start using the tool which have revolutionised the world in the last 20 years – the computer and the internet.

Prices for personal computers are dropping all the time as technological advances are made, so a machine with specifications that were top of the range this time last year can be bought for much less now. This does not make them obsolete however, and most can do things with graphics and sound that computers buffs could only dream of five years ago!

The range of software for computers is vast, with programmes to suit everyone. You could plan a new garden in 3-D on your screen; put together posters, cards and fliers with a desktop publishing programme, fly a plane with flight simulations …..the list is endless.

And if you decide to invest in a computer, it will give you access to the internet. Here you can join newsgroups dedicated to information-swapping on your favourite areas of interest.

You can access on-line libraries, visit webpages dedicated to anything from Middle Eastern politics to UFOs, you can download programmes over the telephone line and send e-mails to friends or family.

Personal computers can be difficult initially to grasp if you have no prior knowledge, but they are becoming increasingly user-friendly and a gateway to the rest of the world.

Whatever you decide to do with your retirement, one thing is sure – you’ll be spoiled for choice.

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