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Retiring overseas? Ageing, stress and how to ensure a healthy life abroad

Whether it’s a planned retirement move to a home in the sun, or a sudden desire to embrace a beloved host country for the long term, many ponder spending their ‘golden years’ living internationally.

Retiring overseas? Ageing, stress and how to ensure a healthy life abroad
Moving abroad to enjoy your golden years can be incredibly fulfilling. Photo: Getty Images

Turning your dream of living overseas into reality can be intensely rewarding. However, it is important to understand the stresses that come with it, how stress exacerbates common health conditions, and how these can be mitigated to ensure a happy, fulfilling life. 

In partnership with Cigna, we discuss the significant factors to consider before making plans to live abroad permanently.

Let’s talk about ageing

As much as we’d like to ignore the fact, as we grow older we are at greater risk of health problems. So it’s worth understanding some common conditions.   

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is by far the biggest threat to both men and women as they age. It encompasses a range of common conditions, from strokes and heart attacks to vascular dementia. Taking the United Kingdom as an example, CVD is responsible for 160,000 deaths each year. More pressingly, it is the impact of CVD on survivors that has greater consequences – strokes are one of the leading causes of disability in the UK , with two-thirds of survivors leaving the hospital with some kind of disability.   

Be prepared for the unexpected, get an international health insurance quote

Cancer is another leading threat to both men and women as they age. With the UK again as an example, 147,407 Britons died from cancer in 2020, out of an average of 375,000 new cases each year. One-third of all cancer cases were diagnosed in those over the age of 75. Breast cancer was the most common cancer diagnosed in the UK between 2016 and 2018, followed by prostate, lung and bladder cancers. While the survivability rates for many cancers are rapidly increasing, treatment and surgery does mean loss of mobility and quality of life for many patients. 

Mobility issues are another serious health problem faced by many as they grow older. After the age of 40, the number of people in the UK who require assistance to move freely begins to rise exponentially. Whether caused by the degradation of joints or other, more complicated issues, a loss of mobility can limit how much of the world an individual can engage with. 

While these figures may seem frightening, it’s worth remembering that medical science has led to significant increases in global life expectancy. The chances of surviving a life-threatening illness today are greater than at any point in history. 

What matters, however, is quality of life. We want to enjoy our later years rather than be impaired by illness. Therefore, any factors we can identify to help us avoid developing illnesses are worth paying close attention to.

Recent research shows the surprising role stress plays in the development of age-related diseases. The good news? This is a factor we can largely control. 

Stress and the human body

We’re all familiar with the sensation of being stressed – a rush of adrenalin, a flush of irritability and a pounding head. 

When we’re stressed, the body’s sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline, as well as hormones such as cortisol, to spur us into a ‘fight or flight’ response, and lead us out of a dangerous situation. While this was a useful tool for our ancient ancestors, in the modern world it can do more harm than good. 

Increasingly, science is uncovering the myriad effects that prolonged stress can have on the human body. We’ve known for a long time that stress can harm the heart and circulatory system – prolonged stress can lead to a more rapid heartbeat and higher blood pressure, doubling the chances of having a heart attack or stroke

Research has also uncovered the role of stress in the development of many kinds of cancer. It indicates that the brain’s release of hormones during periods of prolonged stress can activate cancer cells, leading to rapid tumour growth. 

Stress also impacts the body’s immune system. When a person experiences prolonged stress, hormones again can significantly reduce the number of lymphocytes, a kind of white blood cell, weakening the body’s defences against infection. 

So, for most of us, if we can reduce stress in our daily lives, we can lessen our chances of falling ill. There are a number of techniques, practices and habits that can help reduce the effect of stress. For people living overseas, however, this may be more of a challenge. 

Enjoy the life you’ve planned for yourself abroad and build a policy that meets your specific health needs

Stress and living abroad

The experience of living abroad carries with it its own stressors. 

Chief among these are communication difficulties. A lack of understanding of language and cultural mores can be a constant source of stress for internationals, in particular when it comes to resources that may be needed, such as healthcare.

A lack of access to friendly support networks can also be a major stressor. A significant proportion of expats are individuals, so asking for help or having interactions may be difficult. Making friends can take time, and bring its own anxieties. 

Finally, there may be financial pressures – particularly for retirees, who likely have finite savings. Sudden disruptions to their lifestyle could mean a costly return to their home country, or a reduction in circumstances – in itself a major stressor. 

Stretch yourself: Staying active and connected to others can help vastly reduce stress levels. Photo: Getty Images

The most important consideration for older internationals 

As increasing numbers of people work, live and retire abroad, international health insurers are beginning to understand the role of stress for policyholders – in both recovery and prevention. Most insurers now actively address the stress experienced by internationals abroad through their coverage. 

Chiefly, many providers, such as Cigna Global, offer unlimited phone and online consultations with doctors, with clinical advice and prescriptions in the customer’s language. They also grant access to specialists and choice of hospitals within their network, giving clients peace of mind when it comes to serious illness.

Insurance providers, like Cigna Global, are also developing benefits tailored toward specific conditions, such as cancer. In such cases, in addition to treatment, telephone counselling and other disease-related costs, such as those for a wig, may be included. This provides needed support during a crisis, minimising the damage done by stress and boosting the chances of a full recovery. 

Finally, depending on the level of coverage, some insurers have deployed the use of dedicated services to give their policyholders advice on all areas of life abroad – from rubbish collections to family emergencies. A friendly voice acting as a guide means that many stressors faced by internationals can be minimised, if not eliminated. 

If you are planning to make a permanent move abroad, especially if you’re getting older, it’s important to consider how a potential insurer addresses the challenges of living abroad, and how it actively helps tackle stress. 

It is worth asking exactly what is offered in an international health insurance policy, beyond the coverage it has for illness and accidents. Does it offer consultations with a doctor in your language? What about counselling services? How will the policy offset the stresses of life abroad daily?

Important for retirees to know, if joining Cigna Global before the end of August, the company will upgrade their policy to include the highly-valued Vision and Dental add-on module for one year*, that covers eye tests, eyewear and a wide range of preventative, routine and major dental treatments. 

Enjoying your later years abroad can be a hugely rewarding and fulfilling experience. To make the most of it, make sure you invest in a policy that not only covers you for when you’re ill but also helps you stay fit, healthy and free of stress in the first place. 

Find out how Cigna can ensure you make the most of your life abroad, and request a quote for international health insurance today

*  – The free Vision and Dental policy upgrade is only applicable to new policies sold in August 2022 which will be eligible for 1 year free Vision and Dental cover. Premiums under $2k will not be eligible. Not applicable in conjunction with any other offer or discount.

Sources

Member comments

  1. Can someone explain why on The Local.DE all the stories are about, and from, the UK? Id didn’t sign up for The Local.UK

    The Italian and Spanish The Local are also mostly about Brexit and The UK folks living there and complaining how its not the same.

    Please, just news. Local to the country and focused on the country would be great.

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RESIDENCY PERMITS

EXPLAINED: How Americans can move to Norway 

Whether you've always dreamed of a life in the mountains or are attracted to the high salaries and work-life balance, many dream of a life in Norway. Here's what you need to know about moving to Norway as an American.

EXPLAINED: How Americans can move to Norway 

There are plenty of factors that make Norway an attractive proposition for those looking to move countries. Whether it’s the nature, the wages, the work-life balance, the active lifestyle, or something completely different, plenty of positives bring people from all corners of the globe to the country.  

Americans undoubtedly feel this attraction as last year, citizens from the USA made up the fourth largest group to be granted work permits, while also being the fifth biggest set of nationals to be given family residence cards. 

So, what are the rules for moving to Norway? 

The basics 

First up, as Americans are classed as citizens from outside the EU/EEA and do not have the freedom of movement, they will generally need to apply for and be granted a residence permit to come to Norway. 

However, Americans with dual nationality from an EU or EEA country can move to Norway without applying for a permit. However, they will have to register with the police as having moved to Norway and log their reason for moving, such as work or family. If you qualify as an EU national, then you can check the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration’s (UDI) rules here.

Additionally, partners, spouses, and fiancés can move to Norway if their significant other is an EU/EEA national. You can read more about the specifics here

However, if you don’t meet these requirements, you will need to apply for a residence permit. The UDI treats Americans like the citizens of any other country outside of the EU/EEA, meaning there aren’t any specific rules for Americans. 

And one final point worth mentioning is Norway does not allow those with “Norwegian heritage” or a distant Norwegian relative to move to the country. 

What are the options for getting a residence permit? 

There are a few different ways to obtain a work permit to move to Norway. The most common options are either to move for work by getting a skilled worker permit, or to move to be with a Norwegian partner, spouse or family member. The rules for moving to be with family are pretty rigid, so you won’t be able to move to be with an aunt or uncle, for example. 

Becoming an au pair or moving to Norway to study are also options. You can find an overview of the different application types available to citizens from the USA here.

As obtaining a work permit or moving to be with family or a partner are the two most common routes, we’ll cover those in more detail. 

Getting a work permit

To qualify for the skilled worker permit, you’ll need to have completed higher education or obtained vocational training that took at least three years at upper secondary school level or higher—for example, electricians or carpenters. In addition, you will need to have received a full-time job offer that meets Norwegian pay and working condition requirements. 

The job you are offered must also require your qualifications as a skilled worker. These work permits run for between one and three years. Those with degrees are normally given three-year-long permits, while those with vocational education are typically given year-long permits. You may also need to reapply if you move into a job that’s a different position to the one you applied for, even if it’s with the same employer.

In Norway, there are many professions which are regulated. This means special qualifications and training are required to work in these fields. In some cases, you will need to have your qualifications gained outside of Norway approved to be eligible to work in them.

A seasonal worker permit option is also available, but this is a more short-term option and isn’t viable if you want to stay in Norway for longer than six months. 

To find out what rules specifically apply to you when applying for a work permit, click here.

READ MORE:

Family immigration visa

Family immigration permits can be particularly complicated to understand as they can cover everything from partners moving to be with each other to relocating to be with children. Family immigration permits refer to two people in the application process. These are the applicant (the person who wants to move to Norway) and the reference person (the person the applicant is moving to Norway to be with). 

While the details below provide a basic overview, it is worth checking with the UDI what options are available to you and the rules here

For those with a husband or wife in Norway, there will be an application fee of 10,500 kroner to cover. Both of you will also need to be over 24 too. In addition, you’re marriage or partnership must have been legally entered into

You will also need to plan on living together in Norway, and the marriage must not have been a visa wedding or forced. 

The applicant must also verify their identity, and you must not be prohibited from entering the Schengen area. 

The reference person (i.e. the partner) must also have an income of at least 287,278 kroner per year before tax. This figure changes every May though. But the salary requirement will not be raised or lowered if it changes after you apply. 

The applicant’s significant other will also not have received financial assistance from NAV (økonomisk sosialhjelp) in the previous 12 months. 

The rules for those with partners is broadly the same. But you must also meet one of two requirements to be eligible. First, you will need either have lived together for two years. Or you must be expecting or have a child together. 

A parent who has sole parental responsibility for a child who is a Norwegian citizen can apply for a permit for family immigration to live with their child in Norway

If you are married or live with the child’s other parent, you cannot apply for this type of permit. Instead, you must apply under the rules for spouses and cohabitants. 

If your child or grandchild is an EEA citizen registered in Norway, you can move to be with them if you can document your identity, aren’t prohibited from entering the Schengen, and you will need to be supported financially by the reference person. 

Moving to be with adult children or parents when you are over 18 is incredibly tricky, and a specific set of requirements needs to be met. 

In many cases, those applying under the “other family” bracket will only have their applications approved when strong humanitarian reasons are considered. However, the UDI doesn’t list any particular requirements or guidelines. 

Those with family immigration permits are allowed to work and may be entitled to healthcare through the National Insurance Scheme.

Additionally, some people granted residence for family immigration can receive free Norwegian language lessons.

READ MORE: 

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