1. Introduction

«…inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened  

Terry Pratchett, British Author

People are living longer. Official statistics reveal that life expectancy has risen, on average, by more than two years per decade since the 1960s. Today, it is relatively normal to age well past 70, past 80, or even past 90. But does living long automatically mean living well? No one will deny that this is definitely not the case, unfortunately.
If we want to maintain a certain standard of living in old age, we cannot rely exclusively on state pension and health care schemes, but must also make individual preparations. Several studies show besides that active later life planning and self-reflection of age-related transitions can influence also well-being in later life positively.
In interviews with 125 persons between 40 and 75 years carried out in the SenQuality project countries Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Spain, 97% of the interviewees saw it as very important or something important to be proactive in preparation for later life.

But at the same time, only 43% already took measures. Having a look at the answers given by the younger ones among our interviewees, the percentage is by far lower. 70% of the persons interviewed asked for more support in relation to preparation for later life.

«“I know that it would be useful to do some preparation – but where do I start and where do I stop. This is a topic that people like to push aside before it is possibly too late”.»

(Comment by a German interviewee, April 2021)

Later life preparation is a complex topic. It includes many different aspects, legal regulations and personal backgrounds, interests and wishes. Some things are beyond our control but we have the chance to influence our later life in many areas.

Anna E. Kornadt, professor in Psychology at the University of Luxemburg, and Klaus Rothermund, Chair of General Psychology at the University of Jena see preparation as a lifelong and multidimensional process that goes beyond financial preparation.

They defined in their studies nine life domains relevant for preparation, with which we will deal also in this publication:

  • Finances
  • Emergencies and exceptional circumstances
  • Mental and physical fitness
  • Housing
  • Looks and appearance
  • Social relationships
  • Health
  • Leisure activities and lifestyle
  • Work and employment

Not all domains can be equally influenced by everyone and the starting date and effort for preparations might differ from domain to domain.

«Interesting topic, but it sounds difficult. I already have “4” in front, does this mean that I should already prepare for old age?”

(Interviewee from Poland, April 2021)

The question when to begin with preparation for later life is as individual as ageing itself. There’s no need to panic about your next “big” birthday milestone but be aware that ageing well is all about preparation and prevention, and some things need time or are better when influenced at an earlier stage.

This publication introduces the domains for later life preparation, each one with practical support on how to take concrete steps for a fulfilled later life. We besides give some more generic advice on planning and decision making.

In the annex, we summarise the results of research on the topic of preparing for old age, which we conducted with 125 people. If you are interested in background information about demographic change in Europe please have a look at our publication about “Ageing in Europe”. There, we give you some insights into the situation in the SenQuality project countries Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, Slovenia and Spain including good practices from these countries in relation to active ageing.

When starting to work with this guide, please have in mind that you do not have to follow the given order of domains, but you can of course pick the ones that seem most relevant to you personally in your current life situation. But don´t forget, the more satisfaction we have in the various fields of life, the higher is our general quality of life – now and in future.

Are you ready to think about your later life? We hope to give you inspiring information and input to start planning!

2. Planning later life

«I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

Leonardo da Vinci, Polymath – Painter, scientist, engineer, sculptor…

How the later life planning process looks like depends to a very large degree on you and your personal situation: What are your wishes and visions for your future and what is your current situation? Where do you live, in a flat or a house, in a rural area or a larger city, what is your family situation, do you have the possibility to put aside some money every month, how healthy do you live…?

There are many questions and many options. You might not be able to influence every aspect of later life but you have the power to shape it as pleasantly as possible.

What really counts is that later life planning involves not only theoretic planning but also taking action and (changing) behaviors, independent from your current age.

When talking about later life, this includes third age, where one usually retires from work and adjusts to the life without formal employment, but also the fourth age, in which themes like health, (in)dependence from help, and the end of one’s life become more important.

In your third age, you are preparing for experiencing a change of roles: Maybe you transition from being an active part of the work force to being retired, maybe you transition from being a parent to a grandparent, maybe you transition from being a house owner to living in an apartment. Generally, the third age involves the idea of active ageing, enjoying social relationships, and the activities one didn’t have time for previously.For preparations for the fourth age, the impact of advanced biological age becomes more prominent: Deteriorating health and the unavoidability of death bring to the forefront other necessities than for the third age.

The nine domains vary in their importance regarding the life stages one is in or preparing for: While for the third age preparation domains that relate to activity, work, fitness, and appearance may seem most relevant, for the fourth age domains that relate to health, housing, and emergencies may be seen as more significant.

The planning process is very individual and all domains encompass hopes as well as fears of the planner. So let´s have a look at the different domains. We hope to give you an idea of what to think about and what to look for when you start your planning process.

References & further reading

  1. Eurostat. Mortality and life expectancy statistics. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Mortality_and_life_expectancy_statistics
  2. Kornadt, Anna E.; Rothermund, Klaus. “Preparation for old age in different life domains: Dimensions and age differences.” International Journal of Behavioral Development, vol. 38, no. 3, 2014, pp. 228–38, doi:10.1177/0165025413512065.
  3. Kim-Knauss, Yaeji, and Frieder R. Lang. “Late-Life Preparedness and Its Correlates: A Behavioral Perspective on Preparation.” The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, edited by Shevaun Neupert, July 2020, p. gbaa088, doi:10.1093/geronb/gbaa088.
  4. Kornadt, Anna E., and Klaus Rothermund. “Contexts of Aging: Assessing Evaluative Age Stereotypes in Different Life Domains.” The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, vol. 66b, no. 5, Sept. 2011, pp. 547–556.
  5.   —. “Preparation for Old Age in Different Life Domains: Dimensions and Age Differences.” International Journal of Behavioral Development, vol. 38, no. 3, 2014, pp. 228–38, doi:10.1177/0165025413512065.
  6. Noone, Jack H., et al. “Preretirement Planning and Well-Being in Later Life: A Prospective Study.” Research on Aging, vol. 31, no. 3, 2009, pp. 295–317, doi:10.1177/0164027508330718.
  7. Preston, Claire, et al. Planning and Preparing for Later Life. Centre for Ageing Better, 2018.
  8. Wang, Mo, and Junqi Shi. “Psychological Research on Retirement.” Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 65, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 209–33, doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115131.
  9. Yeung, Dannii Y., and Xiaoyu Zhou. “Planning for Retirement: Longitudinal Effect on Retirement Resources and Post-Retirement Well-Being.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 8, July 2017, p. 1300, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01300.