How to Keep Your Mind Sharp in Retirement
If you’re looking to lead an active retirement, you’re not alone. One study found that 66% of retirees want to try new things in retirement, and 95% would prefer to have great experiences rather than buy more things.
Besides being personally satisfying, staying active can also help you avoid one of the hidden risks of retirement: cognitive decline.
Even if you are fortunate enough to avoid dementia or Alzheimer’s, the average retiree will see negative intellectual consequences to retiring. Things like memory, verbal fluency, and intellectual performance can all suffer after leaving the workforce.
The potential reasons are many, but there is one common piece of advice when it comes to staying sharp for the long-haul: use it or lose it.
Aiming for an enriching retirement can help. Here’s what you can do – starting today.
It’s age-old advice, but the link between exercise and the brain is well known at this point. In fact, one study found that older adults with better fitness (measured by VO2 max scores) had less deterioration of the white matter of the brain – whether or not they had any existing cognitive impairment. That meant better performance on critical thinking and planning tests.
In other words, no matter how your brain is doing at a given moment, exercise might help to preserve it.
Of course, not everyone wants to hit the gym or run a 5k. Much like financial planning, we recommend finding the right form of exercise for you. At the end of the day, the most effective financial or fitness plan is the one you can stick with for the long haul. Whether that means a good walk every day or that spinning class that leaves even the young ‘uns sweating, we suggest finding the one that works for you – and sticking with it.
Many retirees continue working part time in retirement – and not necessarily for financial reasons! Some take the chance to try a new vocation, others to pursue a long-lost hobby, and still others to maintain a sense of structure and contribution.
One study found that 75% of retirees would be willing to work past their retirement date, and 67% would be interested in learning new skills in order to try something different.
For example, though she didn’t “need” to, our client Mary, a nurse for her 30+ year career, decided to take on a receptionist role in a private medical practice in retirement.
Mary says, “It worked out great! I still get to be part of the medical world, but I don’t have to be on my feet all day. I can help things run more efficiently because I understand what’s going on in the exam room, and I’ve gotten the chance to learn so much about computers, practice management, and insurance. It gives me something useful to do and makes me feel challenged – but not exhausted.”
For other retirees, retirement is about giving back to the community and the world. We’ve had clients become student tutors, animal shelter volunteers, pro bono attorneys, and behind the scenes administrators and contributors to charitable organizations.
If this is up your alley, the impact can be enormous – both in terms of satisfaction and staying active.
Another client, Ernest, spent his career as an engineer: he and his wife Margaret were always passionate about helping kids access opportunities and support, and now in retirement he’s become active in the foster care system and in partnering older foster kids with educational and employment opportunities for the future.
He says, “It’s part-time, but it feels like a lifetime’s worth of positive impact. I can honestly say that the hours I spend working go to something important, and it’s just given me this energy and enthusiasm I forgot I had. I’m solving problems, persuading people to participate, and helping kids access the kinds of resources many of us take for granted. This is the best form of retirement I could hope for.”
If your form of retirement revolves more around golf, travel, or catching up on a library’s worth of books, don’t fret. It’s not about doing one particular thing to stay sharp and active, it’s about providing yourself with the stimulation, challenges, and positive mindset to continue growing.
One great example is a study of nuns and dementia risk. The findings are fascinating: for example, nuns who used more positive emotional language in an essay about themselves lived longer than those who didn’t – a possible indication that simply being an optimist can help preserve health.
Of course, the brain is mystifyingly complex, and so is dementia risk. No one endeavor or exercise plan can eliminate the risks associated with cognitive decline and aging.
But we believe that the positive impact of staying active can be positive for so much more than our brains – it can help to truly make your retirement your golden years. At Vitucci & Associates, it’s our goal to help you achieve just that.
Get ahead on your retirement transition
No matter what an active and involved retirement looks like for you, the transition into retirement requires advance planning. Take a look at our free guide to financial planning for pre-retirees. It touches on important issues, risks, and considerations that can have an impact on your retirement – along with tips and advice for how to get started.
Download Your Retirement Transition Plan for free today!