Triumphing over the Aging Brain

One of the worries of embarking into retirement is often unvoiced, because it is too personal, closely tied to aging and diminishing cognitive abilities. The aging brain is susceptible to impending senility, even Alzheimer’s, and that is tough stuff for a retiree to contemplate.

It may also mean that you are simply getting older, as is your brain, and it’s a natural process that may be slowed, even stymied.

You don’t necessarily have to play brain games or read a book a day to keep the aging brain sharp. However, you do need to live a meaningful life after retirement with a fairly active social life. Too many retirees withdraw from their previous life, which includes, not only their job, but the things they did after work and on weekends with people with whom they can easily lose regular contact. Retiring then becomes extended hibernation from which you may seldom peak out of the cave.

Family Dinners after RetirementHere’s one thing that almost always happens after you retire: things change. The daily routine is different and so are the surroundings that were so much a part of your previous life.

Retirement does not have to be less stimulating than what came before, because you have the freedom to choose what you do. You may argue that your job was not all that confining, that you called the shots as an executive or by owning and running your own business. There are exceptions, of course, but a change in circumstances and environment should also be stimulating.

There are risks if you choose a hibernating retirement over one of new beginnings and new experiences. You are putting your brain in neutral if both your body and mind are inactive.  The freedom of retirement means it is up to you, not a job description, to provide mental stimulation on a daily basis.

They should also engage in social activities and find a leisurely activity they can enjoy if they aren’t trying to spend their retirement years still working.

“We find that early retirement has a significant negative impact on the cognitive ability of people in their early 60s that is both quantitatively important and causal,” according to a study on the mental impact of retirement commissioned by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

Loss of cognitive abilities may lead to depression. Anxiety supplants relaxation, resulting in stress. Stress is a major reason why many people retire.

Treat retirement as an adventure and plan experiences that will keep your mind and body engaged. It doesn’t guarantee a fulfilling retirement, but it is a great start.


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