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September is ... - Healthy Aging Month

How to stay mentally sharp after retirement
Healthy Aging Month Healthy Aging Month

September is …

If asked to describe how they envision retirement, many professionals might reference travel, time spent with grandchildren and various recreational pursuits. Few, if any, would mention cognitive decline. However, cognitive decline poses a significant threat to aging men and women, especially during retirement.

Researchers have long since rec- ognized that certain cognitive abilities begin to decline with advanced age, even among elderly individuals who are healthy. However, despite that decline, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that dementias like Alzheimer's disease are not an inevitable part of aging. In fact, the CDC estimates that as many as 40 percent of dementia cases may be prevented or delayed. In addition, the CDC reports that it's not uncommon for routine memory, skills and knowledge to stabilize or even improve as the brain ages.

That's good news for retirees who want to spend their post-work life pursuing their passions and hobbies. Individuals also can embrace some strategies to stay mentally sharp in


• Consider delaying retirement. Even if early retirement is a dream, it might be better to work a little longer than you had planned.

A 2021 study published in the journal SSM – Pop – ulation Health found that postponed retirement is beneficial to cognitive function for all genders, races/ethnicities, educational levels, and professional status. The study reported that individuals who waited until age 67 to retire experienced less cognitive decline than those who retired prior to turning 67. • Make exercise part of your retirement rou tine. A lack of structure may seem enticing to individuals who have spent decades working. However, many retirees find that little structure loses it appeal quickly after calling it quits. When creating a new routine in retire ment, include regular exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies indicate that peo ple who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function. So daily exercise not only gives retirees something to do, but also benefits their brains. • Enroll in an adult education course. A 2014 study published in the journal JAMA Neurology examined the association be tween lifetime intellectual enrichment and cognitive decline in the older population. The study's authors found that higher levels of late-life cognitive activity were associated with higher levels of cognition. The study's authors concluded t h a t lifetime intellectual enrichment might d e – lay the onset of cognitive impairment. Retir- eescanlookintoadultlearningprograms at local collegesanduniversitiestoseeifanything piques their interest.

Retirement can be everything professionals hope it will be, especially for those who make a concerted effort to maintain optimal cognitive function after they call it a career.

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