Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to Stay Sharp in Retirement

How does one stay mentally fit after the 40-hour workweek is traded in for the gold watch?

The more you want to use your brain -- and the more you enjoy doing it -- the more likely you are to stay sharp as you age.

This is according to findings by a team of Concordia University researchers.

The new study has three major findings that can help forecast cognitive ability in one's golden years:

  1. The more one seeks out and enjoys cognitively demanding activities, the less likely one is to experience cognitive decline later in life.
  2. Doing a variety of different cognitive activities helps boost brainpower post-retirement.
  3. People who exhibit even mild signs of depression are more likely to show a decline in brainpower once they leave the office for good.

First author Larry Baer explains that, "retirement usually occurs right around the time when normal age-related declines in cognitive function come to the fore. So it is important to understand what is happening to brainpower during this period and to identify risk factors for mental decline, as well as factors that will help protect against it."

This study has far-reaching implications.

Says Baer, "it is my hope that these results will influence the design of future interventions aimed at maintaining the cognitive health of retirees. This can be done by focusing on getting people to intensify their engagement in a variety of cognitive activities even if they have lower levels of motivation to do so. It is equally important to address symptoms of depression to help fight against cognitive decline."

The researchers used data collected over four years, from 333 recent retirees. Participants, who were an average age of 59 and mostly in good health and free of any serious mobility limitations when the study started, underwent assessments of cognition, motivation and activities once a year.


The above story is based on the October 1, 2013  news release by Concordia University.

The research has been published in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences:
 Baer LH, Tabri N, Blair M, Bye D, Li KZ, Pushkar D. Longitudinal associations of need for cognition, cognitive activity, and depressive symptomatology with cognitive function in recent retirees. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2013 Sep;68(5):655-64. 

Click HERE for the full text


Tips to Stay Mentally Sharp in Retirement

Here are some ways to stay mentally sharp without going to work every day.

Stay physically active. Research shows that staying physically active slows mental decline. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise both increases oxygen-rich blood flow and produces chemicals that protect the brain by countering some of the natural, age-related reduction of brain connections. To motivate yourself, find something you enjoy doing or someone you enjoying doing it with. Click HERE for an earlier report in Zestfulness

Listen to music. Scientists have recently discovered that playing music can enhance the brain and sharpen your hearing skills. Music has power—it can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements. If you can’t play any musical instruments, just listen analytically.
Dr ArnoldBresky recommends listening to music 30 minutes daily, in particular stimulates the brain in a particular way that has a specific effect we want.  He suggests that Mozart’s piano concerto is the best kind of music for prevention of Alzheimer’s, as compared with other types of music. 

Eat well. When cells break down, by-products known as free radicals break off and damage healthy cells in a process called oxidative stress, which is thought to contribute to aging and disease. Antioxidants interact with free radicals and may reduce the damage they cause.
Professor Jeffrey Blumberg, director of the antioxidants lab at the Jean Mayer
USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, recommends: Just pick colorful, ready-to-eat fruit (such as apples, blueberries, plums and oranges) and vegetables (such as raw broccoli, carrots, celery, and red radishes) and whole grains (such as whole rye bread, whole-wheat crackers and whole oat cereals). You will have less worry about these foods being perishable if you buy them in small quantities and eat them daily.
When choosing beverages, pick black or green tea and 100 percent fruit juices.
When you do cook, remember that herbs and spices (such as cinnamon, ginger, oregano and turmeric) also provide highly concentrated sources of antioxidants.
Importantly, remember that there are thousands of dietary antioxidants, so don’t focus on getting a few “super antioxidants,” but instead enjoy as wide an array of fresh, whole-plant foods as possible. Click HERE for an earlier report in Zestfulness

Listen to good debates and discussions. You may doubt the credibility of Malaysian mainstream media  but there are endless sources for interesting discussion in the internet. The Intelligence Squared Debates  brings together the world's brightest minds in politics and journalism. TED  is a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, under the slogan "ideas worth spreading".

Engaging in lifelong learning. Learn a foreign language; it’s never too late to pick up a few words in Mandarin or try to master French. Most Malaysians are multilingual but we can improve on our command of the second and even the third language. Take up a new hobby, with passion; the important thing is to make your mind try new things and develop new memories.

Manage your stress. When you're stressed, your brain releases hormones that can damage your brain, according to a recent study. And constant stress can cause depress or anxiety, feelings that decrease your ability to remember. Click HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for related reports in Zestfulness
Think young. If you think and act young, you will tend to stay younger. Open up your mind to new things. Be curious. Ask questions. Remaining socially active, develop new friendships

Meditate Mindfully. Psychologists led by Fadel Zeidan studying the effects of a meditation technique known as “mindfulness ” found that meditation-trained participants showed a significant improvement in their critical cognitive skills (and performed significantly higher in cognitive tests than a control group) after only four days of training for only 20 minutes each day. 

Click HERE for a 12-minute mindfulness meditation taster by Jon Kabat-Zinn. 
Jon is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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