Retirement is a time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. But it's also a time to make sure you're keeping your brain active. Studies have shown that people who stay mentally active are less likely to develop dementia and other cognitive decline as they age.
Jessica Caldwell, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, says finding ways to keep your brain active in your golden years may help prevent memory issues down the road.
When we retire, we often lose a lot of intellectual engagement we got from our job. Without that, we're not optimizing our brain health for life.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental function that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. There are many different types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia.
Dementia will often require supervision and help with daily living activities. The problem is that caregiving is usually the job of unpaid and untrained family members since no other arrangements were made. Health insurance, including Medicare, will not pay for most long-term care, including dementia care.
Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for dementia care and other long-term care services, but policies cannot be purchased once your health has changed and you need care. Medicaid will pay for dementia care, but you must have little or no income and assets.
Risks of Dementia After Retirement
The risk of dementia increases with age. But other factors can also increase the risk, such as:
- Low levels of education
- A history of head injury
- Certain medical conditions, such as stroke and diabetes
- Social isolation
Benefits of Keeping Your Brain Active
Keeping your brain active can help to reduce the risk of dementia and other cognitive decline. It can also improve your memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills. Staying mentally active can also help to improve your mood and reduce stress.
Dr. Caldwell said finding ways to keep your brain active in your golden years may help prevent memory issues down the road. While picking an enjoyable activity is key, it must also challenge you. Learning a new skill, reading a book, and doing a puzzle are just some examples of how you can engage your brain.
You or a loved one should keep your brain active for several reasons.
- To reduce the risk of dementia. Studies have shown that mentally active people are less likely to develop dementia and other cognitive decline.
- To improve memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills. Staying mentally active helps keep your mind sharp and improves your ability to learn new things.
- To improve your mood and reduce stress. Mental activity can help to release endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects.
- To reduce the risk of other health problems. Studies have shown that mentally active people are less likely to develop other health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and depression.
Ways to Keep Your Brain Active
There are many ways to keep your brain active after retirement. Here are a few ideas:
- Learn a new language. Learning a new language is a great way to challenge your brain and improve cognitive function.
- Play games. Games that require thinking and strategizing, such as chess, Sudoku, and crossword puzzles, are great for your brain.
- Read books and articles. Reading helps to keep your mind active and engaged.
- Take classes or workshops. This is a great way to learn new things and meet new people.
- Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to stay mentally and physically active.
- Socialize with friends and family. Social interaction is important for your brain health.
Dr. Caldwell said the goal should be to do an activity like this daily. Finding ways to stay social is also crucial for long-term brain health.
Most of us make friends at work, or at least have acquaintances at work we enjoy seeing. If you retire and don't have that network outside of work, you might find yourself feeling isolated or lonely. Both isolation and loneliness are not good for our brain health and are risk factors for dementia. When you retire, it's important to keep up a social network.
Dr. Caldwell adds that regular exercise and eating a healthy diet are other ways to maintain brain health as you age.
Delaying the Risk of Alzheimer's
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, but there are things you can do to delay the onset of the disease. These include:
- Staying mentally active. As mentioned above, staying mentally active can help to reduce the risk of dementia and other cognitive decline.
- Eating a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet is important for your overall health, including your brain health.
- Exercising regularly. Exercise is also important for your brain health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Getting enough sleep. Sleep is essential for brain health. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Managing stress. Stress can have a negative impact on your brain health. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, yoga, or meditation.
Prepare for Aging - Now
Keeping your brain active after retirement is important for your overall health and well-being. It can help to reduce the risk of dementia and other cognitive decline, improve your memory and concentration, and improve your mood, and reduce stress.
However, aging happens, and as we get older, we will experience changes in our health, body, and mind. Being prepared for the increasing costs and burdens of future long-term care will help ensure your access to quality care, protect income and assets, and allow time for loved ones to be family instead of caregivers. Long-Term Care Insurance is an affordable solution for many people.
But every insurance company has underwriting rules, so don't delay until you have significant health problems. Most people get coverage in their 40s or 50s when premiums are much lower, and your health is usually much better.
About the Author
Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.
Contributor since December 11th, 2017
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