Last Christmas, I was given golf clubs and golf lessons, so I am getting better at hitting that little white ball!

I have always enjoyed writing and last December I started a blog called ‘Retirement and Beyond’, I like taking photos, especially when I travel, and the blog is a good way of sharing my adventures and photos with others. I have 3 grandchildren in Norway, and try and get to see them for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas time, and in between times, thank goodness for Skype!

If anyone is thinking of retiring, or returning, to Ireland, here are a few facts about our welfare system.

On reaching pension age, which is 66 at the moment, but may be revised upwards, Irish people are entitled to a pension, either contributory or non-contributory, depending on how many years a person has worked in the state. There are also other benefits, such as free travel on buses and trains within Ireland, and discounts on admission prices to certain events. Other benefits include free television licences, and a contribution towards electricity and telephone, and a fuel allowance in the winter months.

Health insurance in Ireland is expensive, as it is in most countries, but if a pensioner cannot afford private health insurance, he will be treated in hospitals as a public patient, though there can be a waiting list for operations and other procedures. In certain circumstances, depending on means and age, pensioners are entitled to a medical card which entitles them to free medical attention. The Citizens Information Board in Ireland can provide details of the different health insurance companies and what they offer, as well as other information.

All in all, Ireland is a great place to live, like all countries it takes time to settle and to get to know or re-connect with people if you have been away for some time, and being on the edge of Europe it is easy, and relatively cheap, to visit most countries in Europe. Irish people are very friendly and we love to welcome visitors and take pride in showing them around the beautiful countryside. Being a small country one doesn’t have to travel very far to be near the coast, or the mountains or lakes. This summer was very dry and warm and sunny, even warmer than Spain some days, and our winters are usually not too extreme, we don’t have snow every year. It is a tradition on Christmas Day to raise money for charity by doing a swim in the sea (not a very long swim, but a swim nonetheless!) I usually wrap up warmly, go to the pier and partake of some hot chocolate with marshmallows while watching the swimmers and cheering them on!

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