Retirement is bad for your brain!

You have heard the phrase “use it or lose it” and this reflects the current view that you can slow down the normal cognitive aging process or even dementia by engaging in activities that exercise the mind.

The biggest drop seems to come at retirement. There is a significant decrease in your brains performance that comes with retirement, which researchers suggest is because we stop engaging in complex tasks, the brain is no longer challenged enough to keep it in great shape.

Our new environment is no longer forcing us to use our brains at a high level on a frequent basis. So, what can we do to prevent this decline from occurring?  Do we indeed have to use it or lose it? What can we do to mitigate the effects of this decline in our brain’s capability?

  1. Learn new things

All the research shows that acquiring additional skills can be a terrific way to keep an aging brain in shape

“I’m still learning” Michelangelo 78

Learn for the sheer pleasure of it. If you love holidaying in Spain go to night school so you can converse in Spanish. The threat of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is frightening for most of us. One of the most effective things you can do is learn a foreign language. Research from Edinburgh University found that people who were bilingual developed dementia later than people who only spoke one language throughout their lives.

Learn to play a musical instrument, the added benefits of music learning include memory retention, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills, which are all important skills to work on no matter what your age. Playing a musical instrument is as good for your brain as circuit training is for your body.

2. Part-time work 

This is my favourite, I started my own business at age 60 and it provides me all the best elements of working but with more time to do other things like spending quality time with my grandson, fitting in the occasional massage and getting out for lunch with friends.  

Everything you need to know about setting up a social enterprise

3. Volunteering

Tens of thousands of individuals over 50 spend time volunteering in the UK. The key benefits of volunteering are:

  • improved mental and physical health prospects
  • improved life satisfaction
  • a feeling of usefulness and of having a role to play in society
  • opportunities for social interaction.

Plus, you will be a making a difference to other people’s lives – what’s not to like!

4. Brain games

When people keep their minds active, their thinking skills are less likely to decline, medical research shows. So, games, puzzles, and other types of brain training may help slow memory loss and other mental problems.

5. Exercise 

The beneficial effect of exercise on your physical and emotional well-being is well documented but does it help to keep the brain active?

Multiple studies have shown that the effect of exercise on the brain is impressive. Walking 200 minutes per week on average at age 70 has been shown to not only maintain (or improve) cognitive function, but it also results in an increase in the size of certain parts of the brain at a time when the brain is rapidly shrinking. In effect, exercise seems to reverse the effects of aging on the brain. And exercise is not only good for your brain. As long as you are engaging in ways that do not place you at risk for injury, exercise has the potential to treat your physical health as well or better than prescription drugs designed to manage chronic conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It is one of the single best ways to maintain your mental health, which also has an important effect on cognitive performance.

So, which of these activities gives you the biggest bang for your buck? Exercise!

#goexercise #fitness #workout

About The Author - Terry King OBE

Terry left work at age 60 following a very successful career in the Civil Service. Reluctant to sit on her laurels she co-founded Chapter 3 Enterprise a community interest company.

She has since gone on to set up 3 other companies including a not for profit to support women and girls in Nepal and an online training company

Not content with trying to be business women of the year she has also volunteered for 2 months in Nepal, fundraised the money for the first women’s business centre in Nepal and most recently started skiing lessons at age 67!