8 Ways to Remain Mentally Fit in Retirement

Support your memory by doing brain-boosting activities

Dec 4, 2018

(Mariia Kan / Shutterstock.com)

Everyone forgets things. We misplace our car keys or can't remember the name of someone we see frequently. Memory lapses can occur at any age and "senior moments" do not signify that anything is wrong.

Forgetfulness is a common complaint (and fear) among retirees and this is a legitimate issue because there are some brain changes that occur when people age. It takes a little longer to learn and recall new information and seniors are just not as quick anymore, but these are not symptoms of true cognitive decline.

The good news is that there are things that retirees can do to keep their brains as sharp as when they were working, and they are easy to do.

1. Stay Physically Fit

Physical activity, i.e. exercise, helps keep people’s brain working as well as the rest of their body. It increases the amount of oxygen in the brain and enhances the effect of feel-good brain chemicals that make help improve moods and reduce stress. It is not necessary to run marathons or do anything strenuous. Join a health club, take daily walks, bicycle or do any other physical activity. Don't be a retiree couch potato, get up and move.

2. Volunteer

After retirement, people do not socialize as much as they used to, and socialization is an important part of keeping memory skills healthy. There are many ways to do that, join a club, make lunch dates with friends, or volunteer for a cause. In fact, volunteering is the best way to be socially engaged.

Research
found multiple significant benefits on volunteer work for seniors. These include greater life satisfaction, higher function, being happier, and having a strong social network. If human company is not available, do not ignore the value of pets. Dogs are very social animals and great companions for retirees.

3. Keep Learning

People need to exercise your brain mentally too. Even if they are an expert at something, retirees have to keep adding new information or learn something completely new to strengthen their brains. Experts think that challenging your brain with mental exercise can help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate conversation between them.

Take a class, pursue a new hobby, read, play chess or learn a new game, do crossword puzzles, or learn to play a new instrument. Building and preserving brain connections must be ongoing so make lifelong learning your way of life.

4. Get Proper Sleep

Just because a person can function on six hours of sleep a night, doesn't mean they should. The idea that seniors need less sleep is an urban myth. Experts say that to remain healthy, adults should get 7-8.5 hours of sleep a night to avoid sleep deprivation. Sleep has a very important role in learning and memory. Research shows that key memory-enhancing occurs during the deepest sleep stages.

5. Manage Stress

Stress is one of the worst brain enemies. Over time, chronic stress can destroy brain cells and damages the region of the brain that forms new memories and retrieves old ones. Retirement and other life changes are one of the most stressful things that people do. Most of the things people can do to manage stress are the same activities that are needed to keep memory sharp: exercise, social engagement, healthy diet, sleep and most importantly relax.

6. Identify and Treat Health Problems

If a senior’s memory has taken a dip, it's time to get a health check. There are many conditions and medications that can cause memory loss including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression. It's best to check it out.

7. Eat a Brain Diet

Just as the body needs fuel to function properly, the brain does too. A special diet called the MIND diet was developed to help improve brain function. It is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the blood pressure lowering DASH diet.

There are 10 brain healthy components of the MIND diet including green leafy vegetables, vegetables high in vitamin A like red peppers, squash, and carrots, beans and lentils, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine in moderation. Avoid bad foods like fast food, fried food, and sweets.

8. Practice Memory Ticks

There are a lot of memory exercises and tricks that can be used to help retirees stay focused. Pay attention. Use all the senses because a familiar smell or taste is linked to memory. Visualize or draw items to help to remember things and the old-fashioned mnemonic devices like “My Very Elegant Mother Just Sat Upon Needles and Pins” are a perfect way to memorize and retain facts.

BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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