Whitepaper: Health is as important as wealth in retirement

People should be encouraged to think about their health rather than concentrate solely on financial matters as part of realistic planning for retirement, according to the new whitepaper Broadening the view on retirement: Health and Retirement. The paper was published today by the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement and Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing. Health can enable or impede aspirations for retirement and quickly dash long-held dreams of how people would fill their retirement days, say whitepaper authors David van Bodegom, Frank Schalkwijk and Mike Mansfield.

Health requires long-term planning and commitment
Gerontologists and medical doctors Van Bodegom and Schalkwijk of Leyden Academy argue that although many age-related diseases and disabilities only become apparent in retirement, preventive strategies aimed at healthy behavior are most effective when they are started earlier in life and during working lives. Preventive strategies can be applied within the working environment, but naturally extend to the home environment and public spaces. Mike Mansfield, Program Director of Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement adds: ‘The data of the Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey 2019 show that, in addition to the preventive benefits for health in older age, healthy behaviors during working lives have a positive effect on the retirement readiness of employees.’

Retirement as a teachable moment
However, it is never too late to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and even retirement itself may trigger people to change their unhealthy routines. When a life event or circumstance leads to a higher probability of adopting behavioral change, this is called a “teachable moment”. Since the moment of retirement itself could be a teachable moment for health behavioral change, medical professionals, welfare workers, local governments, employers and pension providers should work together and seize the opportunity to guide people to effective healthy lifestyle interventions.

Beyond the traditional financial scope
The authors urge employers and pension providers to explore the opportunities for offering guidance to successful retirement beyond the traditional financial scope. Focusing on the health of employees and retirees should be part of any retirement planning scenario.

About the whitepaper series
The Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement has invited the researchers of Leyden Academy to help reflect on retirement from different academic angles, and inspire Aegon to encourage the debate on retirement beyond the traditional financial scope. This has resulted in the whitepapers Why do we retire? (December 2018) and the edition on Health and retirement published today. In the two papers that will follow, we will further broaden the view on retirement from the perspectives of well-being and the image of retirement.