The idea of trading in your suit and commute for sweatpants and sleep-ins might sound amazing, but there can be downsides to retiring and putting your feet up. Research has shown the loss of regular stimulation brought about by retirement can mean a decline in brain performance.
However, that’s not to say retirement can’t be relaxing, enjoyable and good for your brain! Here are some easy ways that you can keep yourself sharp after you’ve retired.
1. Learn something new
You can learn a new skill at any age and doing so is a great way to retain your brain health. The process of learning something is great mental exercise and the more unfamiliar the activity, the better!
Researchers have found that learning a mentally challenging skill can help generate new brain cells. This can strengthen existing connections in the brain, or even create new ones. An example of mentally challenging skill could be things such as digital photography or quilting, which involve many different facets. But while starting a testing hobby is important for health benefits, the most important thing of all is making sure you’re learning something you enjoy.
2. Stay a social butterfly (or become one!)
Keeping a busy social life isn’t only something retirees should be concerned with, but it is something to keep in mind post-retirement. Even if you weren’t particularly close with your colleagues, it still meant regular social interaction and that may be lacking from your post-retirement life.
Setting up weekly events with friends is a good way to ensure you all have an event on the calendar to plan for. You could also consider joining a sports or events club. Your local library is a great place to get information on clubs in the area or try websites such as Meet Up.
A fantastic way for single retirees to meet new people is online dating. SilverSingles caters specifically to men and women over 50 and looking for a meaningful connection. Our members come from all over the country and all walks of life, making it easy to find someone who you feel a genuine spark with. SilverSingles is a safe and fun space to meet new people.
3. Get into gaming or puzzling
Watching TV can be a great way to pass the time, but you also need to exercise the grey matter with a bit more of a challenge. And in fact, something as simple as the humble crossword may keep your brain fresh. A university study of people over 50 found that the more people engaged in word puzzles, the better their performance over the course of nine tasks.
A crossword is a cheap and easy way to engage the mind and promote good brain health, but there are plenty of other brain games as well. Playing video games have been shown to increase grey matter volume in those aged 55 – 75 thanks to brain engagement. Meanwhile, completing jigsaws has a similar effect to crosswords and can provide days or weeks of stimulation, depending on size and difficulty. Ultimately the type of puzzle or game you choose is irrelevant, choose one that will test you and your brain health will thank you.
4. Remind yourself age is only a number
It might seem hard to remind yourself that you’re only as old as you feel, but if you’re able to keep yourself feeling young your brain could massively thank you. A study has shown that those who feel younger than they are actually show fewer age-related brain changes than those who feel their age or older.
So how should you go about feeling younger? Changing your mindset can be a great start. Instead of thinking you’re too old for something (be it a sport or social event), ask yourself if that’s really true or simply a knee jerk reaction. Surround yourself with younger people and take up some form of regular exercise – in fact the two might go hand in hand.
5. Keep the mind and the body active
It’s an oldie but still very much a goodie — exercise benefits the body and mind at all stages in life, but it’s particularly helpful to older adults. A 2018 study found that those who exercised for two hours per week over a six month period showed improved cognitive function — essentially turning back the clock on brain aging!
And thankfully there’s no need to start running ultra-marathons to see a change, regular walking will help just as much as more intense exercising. Frequently taking part in exercises such as yoga, strength training, tai-chi, walking and dancing all help improve brain health, proving there’s bound to be an activity everyone can enjoy and gain from.
6. Help others and help yourself
While retirement can feel like it’s the time to take care of number one, there’s something to be said for using part of your free time to help others. Not to mention the fact that science says it could also help you.
A recent study tracked 1,001 Swedish retirees over a five-year period and found those who volunteered for at least one hour per week were 2.44 times less likely to develop memory difficulties compared to the retirees who didn’t. Volunteering offers structure to your day or week, a chance to socialise and the feeling of making a contribution to society. Consider volunteering for just one day a week – your brain health will benefit long term!
7. Mind your diet, help your brain health
You only get out what you put in – something applicable to success in life and with your body! Over the years you’re bound to have encountered certain foods that make your body feel sluggish or unwell and it can have the same effect on your brain.
While we’d never encourage denying yourself treats, making sure your diet is largely made up food that nourishes your grey matter is key. Eating a diet with vegetables, nuts, and unsaturated fats such as avocados and olive oil are great way to keep up your body and brain health. In terms of healthy meats, fish is particularly good for keeping you sharp thanks to an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA. Eating fish long-term can help keep brain and nervous system tissues healthy, stave off cognitive decline and improve memory!
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