You’ve scrimped and scaped to ensure you have enough money to retire and you’re finally there. Congratulations! While you’re enjoying those mornings of not awakening to an alarm clock, you don’t want your brain to rust. That could happen if you spend your golden years watching old movies on a television screen. Even if you’ve been in the workforce for decades, staying sharp during retirement is a must. After all, who wants to spend their golden years watching cat videos on YouTube?
With age, the effects of cognitive decline and memory loss start to appear. It’s a natural part of the aging process. As you get older, you may have trouble remembering the names of people you haven’t seen in a while or where you left your keys. Even worse, you could develop a more severe form of cognitive decline known as dementia. But there’s much you can do from a lifestyle standpoint to keep your brain sharp and reduce cognitive decline. Let’s look at five effective ways to keep your brain sharp during retirement.
Learn New Skills
Keep learning new things. Don’t let retirement be an excuse to stop learning or settle into a rut. Instead, challenge yourself by doing something new each day, whether it’s learning how to do something or reading a book on a topic that interests you. It will keep your mind active, which helps avoid mental decline over time.
When you challenge your brain by learning something different, it helps your brain build new nerve connections that keep your brain healthy. The latest science shows that the human brain is “plastic,” which means it continues to change and adapt based on daily experiences. Brain plasticity, in turn, can help stave off cognitive decline as you age.
The most effective activities involve different skills than you’re accustomed to, but it’s also important to choose something you enjoy, so you’ll stick with it. Explore cooking classes, learn graphic design skills, master new computer skills, and read (or write) books and articles that challenge your mind. Learning a new instrument is another option. For example, studies show piano players have better cognition and dexterity. Making music is also beneficial for your mood.
Learning something new is also a great way to stay engaged in the world around you while keeping your brain active in retirement. It’s also a way to meet people and make friends — especially if people are interested in what you’re learning and want to learn it themselves!
Learn a New Language
The human brain can learn multiple languages. Studies have shown that both young and old adults who are bilingual have stronger cognitive abilities such as attention and memory. The most important thing to remember is that the brain is like a muscle. It needs exercise just like any other muscle in your body, or it can weaken over time. In this case, learning a new language will provide the stimulation needed to keep this organ healthy. Some studies show bilingualism may help stave off dementia. Challenge your brain and learn to speak a different language.
Join a Club
Connecting with others through family and friends is an important part of staying healthy in retirement. Social interaction improves mental health by helping prevent depression and stress that can contribute to cognitive decline. One way to do that and stimulate your mind simultaneously is to join a club or social group where you interact regularly with people. Find a club you can be enthusiastic about. You can even join a club that emphasizes exercise or learning a new skill. For example, a walking club would provide socialization and exercise.
Even though it may seem hard to get out of your chair or off the couch when you’re retired, it’s important that you do. This is because exercise increases blood flow to the brain and acts like a “fertilizer” for the brain by promoting new nerve cell connections and helps keep existing ones strong. If you’re already retired, keep up with your exercise routine as best you can, so that it becomes a habit.
Exercise helps improve communication between the two sides of the brain — an important step for keeping mental decline at bay. But it’s also helpful for regulating mood and reducing stress, which can have positive effects on your mental health.
Aerobic exercise is especially effective in improving mood. If you’re not already doing something physical, try walking or biking instead of driving whenever possible. You’ll get exercise while spending time socializing with friends and family members.
Exercise helps prevent stiff joints and aching muscles from interfering with physical and mental activities. The exercises should be aerobic, like brisk walking or swimming laps, but not painful.
Most nutritionists agree that a healthy diet can delay the onset of dementia and other mental impairments by helping keep blood vessels healthy and helping prevent stroke. Treat your taste buds and brain to foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds, which help reduce inflammation in the body. Choose more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and cut back on ultra-processed foods and those that contain sugar. Diet is a leading factor that affects cognitive function and longevity.
The Bottom Line
It’s important to remain active throughout retirement, adopt a healthy lifestyle, and stay engaged with others to maintain brain health. If you learn a new language during your golden years, it may slow down or even reverse the effects of aging on your memory and other cognitive functions. Now you know some ways to do that.
“Can Learning a Foreign Language Prevent Dementia? | The ….” 18 Jul. 2019, thereader.mitpress.mit.edu/can-learning-a-foreign-language-prevent-dementia/.
Seinfeld S, Figueroa H, Ortiz-Gil J, Sanchez-Vives MV. Effects of music learning and piano practice on cognitive function, mood and quality of life in older adults. Front Psychol. 2013 Nov 1;4:810. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00810. PMID: 24198804; PMCID: PMC3814522.
“Effects of music learning and piano practice on cognitive ….” 01 Nov. 2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3814522/.