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Time to plan for health needs after retirement

Time to plan for health needs after retirement

At the moment, more and more people are living on to a ripe old age. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Life after retirement comes with special health-related challenges. The advanced age and less active lifestyle predispose retirees to certain illnesses and conditions, whose management is costly. Unfortunately, this is also the time when many of these persons, having exited active service, have significantly less income. Medical insurance, which could come in handy at such times, considering its catalytic value in social and economic development, is sadly inaccessible to majority of the 1.7 million people aged 65 years and above in the country, according to the Kenya Economic Survey 2018. Even those who had a cover during active service typically bid it farewell when they retire, leaving them dependent on settling bills out of pocket.In the rare occasion that a retiree can afford, and wants medical insurance, securing it becomes dicey as well. Insurers are generally unwilling to cover this age group because of the assumed elevated risk; and even when they do, most offer limited cover whilst charging high premiums, to enable them absorb this supposed peril.This ends up locking out many of the senior citizens, who have to shoulder the burden of exorbitant medical bills. This is not only totally out of reach, but also heightens stress on these individuals, further affecting their life expectancy. It is in old age that medical care is most needed. Research estimates that well over half the cost of healthcare during a lifetime is spent after hitting 60 years of age. Without a proper plan to cater for this need, families often have to bear the huge burden of their older kin, depleting savings and investments; and occasionally the society is drawn in to support them through fundraisers.All these point towards need for proper planning for healthcare in retirement, similar to the focus that is usually directed towards sustaining income during this same phase of life, in the form of pension. While a bankable pension investment assures one of maintaining their working-class lifestyle even in retirement, this can be disrupted by the unfortunate event of deterioration in health and the attendant high costs of medical care.At the moment, more and more people are living on to a ripe old age. According to the World Health Organisation, the global average life expectancy as at 2016 was 72 years, a 5.5 years’ increase since the year 2000.Even in Africa, where life expectancy is still about 10 years less than the global average, it still represents a growth of 10.3 years since the year 2000, a trend mainly attributed to stronger healthcare systems. This longevity in life means many years in retirement, hence the obvious need for proper measures to make it comfortable.This important demographic should not be overlooked, as the country engages on delivering universal healthcare coverage, one of the government’s pillars under the Big Four Agenda. Senior citizens deserve, and should be supported to enjoy, sound health and the peace of mind that should illness strike, paying for medical attention will not be a worry. Specific measures need to be put in place to cater for this demographic, and built into the universal healthcare programmes being rolled out in the counties. As people begin thinking of their health post-retirement, it is incumbent upon industry players to get innovative in creating and delivering solutions that cater for health needs of this population.

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