In a move that apparently caught the Spanish nation by surprise, the country’s 76-year old King Juan Carlos announced yesterday that he had decided to abdicate in favour of his son. As I write, the repercussions are still being felt, with some Spaniards wanting their monarchy to shut up shop completely; in the UK, Prince Charles finds his own long wait to be King in the spotlight once again.

Last year Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated at the age of 75, while the abdication of King Albert II of Belgium took place 3 months later when he was 79.

Leaving aside any political issues or those of monarchical etiquette, these abdications highlight an interesting dilemma for today’s citizens and monarchs.

Life expectancy is on the rise but people are spending a greater proportion of their lives with disability and illness. This was a key finding of the World Health Organization’s ‘Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.’

Just like monarchs, older people will need to recognise and admit that the time may have come for them to change their lifestyle. Just like monarchs, each one should be able to choose their moment to make such a decision.