Monday, September 26, 2011

Use It or Lose It - Your Brain in Retirement



As you prepare to retire, have you given much thought to how you will spend your time?  Many people look forward to the day they can finally retire, kick back and relax.  However, there is a lot of medical evidence indicating that spending too much time resting our bodies and our minds is not a healthy approach.  Relaxation might be great for a one week vacation, but it is not the ideal way to plan to spend the next twenty years of your life.

According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, in an article he wrote for the May/June, 2011 edition of the AARP Magazine, there are risks in retirement, especially for your brain.  In essence, we must use it or lose it.  It is extremely important that we continue to keep our brains stimulated and it helps to learn something new ... to play an instrument, speak a new language, or learn a challenging new game.

We have always known that this is true when we have talked about our body and our muscles.  If we don’t get up and take frequent walks, we will eventually discover that it becomes harder and harder to maintain our health and stay in good physical shape.  The same principle applies to the brain.

Earlier this year, the RAND Center for the Study of Aging published a study that was done in conjunction with the University of Michigan.  They tested cognitive performance in people from a variety of countries and discovered that cognitive performance was lower in countries that had earlier retirement ages.  In other words, when people stop working and spend too much time in undemanding activities, their mental ability begins to atrophy!

Think about what that means when people strive to give up their careers as soon as possible.  Suddenly, they no longer spend their work days around other people.  They no longer have to read challenging material, or learn new skills.  They are less likely to be engaged with complicated problems that they have to solve.  Their brain begins to lose its edge.

What can you do to prevent this decline?  Many medical researchers suggest that retirement is the perfect time to start a second career, or learn a new language.  Have you always wanted to play a musical instrument?  Retirement may be opportunity you've been waiting for.  You could even get together with your friends and start a garage band.  Why not?  This is the time of your life when you have the time and opportunity to learn anything new that interests you!  Just remember how important it is to keep challenging yourself.

This might also be a fun time to go back to college and advance your education.  Many community colleges offer inexpensive or free classes to senior citizens.  Ask about the Emeritus Program at a college near you.  

You could take up writing, become a yoga teacher, or design jewelry and sell it at craft fairs.  Whatever you do, you should make certain that you are exercising both your mind and your body frequently.  Find activities that are mentally challenging and that force you to interact regularly with other people.  Both the mental stimulation and the social interaction will have a positive effect on the quality of your retirement years.

If you are interested in learning new things that will improve your life after retirement, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this page for links to hundreds of additional articles on financial planning, health concerns, where to retire and more!

Photo credit: Morguefile.com

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1 comment:

  1. Yes Diane it is very important to keep active. Retirement definitely does not mean stop and do nothing. Get out and travel and see the country you live in as lets face it the sun is definitely going down on us oldies so you have to enjoy live while you are on this beautiful planet.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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