Is your brain getting the workout it needs to keep you mentally sharp in retirement?
Medical science has established a pretty clear link between physical and mental health. According to Harvard Medical School, a variety of mental stimulation, paired with regular exercise and a healthy diet, can create new neural connections in your brain, regenerate new brain cells, and even protect the brain against the loss of cells in the future. The Mayo Clinic says that same mix of healthy living and thinking can lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. And CogniFit Research recommends “brain fitness” as a means to maintain working memory, planning ability, focus, and the speed at which we process information.
Consider mixing some of these brain-boosting activities into your retirement wellness routine.
1. Games and Puzzles
Several recent studies have found that playing video games can help seniors improve their cognitive abilities and have stimulating social interactions with other players. If your Nintendo days are behind you, The New England Journal of Medicine Evidence published a study that found that doing crossword puzzles could also sharpen your brain and reduce brain shrinkage. Sudoku, Wordle, chess, and brain teasers can challenge your problem-solving skills, focus, and memory. You can find many free brain games on your phone or pick up a book of pen-and-paper puzzles to keep your mind engaged while you’re unplugging.
2. Continued Learning
Retirement can be a wonderful time to reconnect with the joy of learning for learning’s sake. You don’t have any exams to cram for, and your board isn’t expecting a polished presentation first thing Monday morning. You’re free to let your mind roam, follow your curiosity where it takes you, and dig deeper into topics that truly interest you. You can take online courses, attend free lectures at local universities, sign up for community classes, learn a new language online, or subscribe to new newspapers or magazines.
You could also approach learning from the other side of the lectern and investigate teaching opportunities. Many states have programs that can put you on the fast track to becoming a substitute teacher. You could also repurpose your lifetime of professional skills by giving presentations at your local community center, mentoring young pros in your field, or starting your own educational YouTube channel or podcast.
3. Reading and Writing
If you don’t think you have the Great American Novel in you, try journaling. Just taking a few moments at the end of the day to jot down something you’re happy about or something you’re grateful for can improve your happiness and open up lines of communication that could improve your relationships as well.
Another great writing prompt for seniors is: What do you want your family to know about you, your career, and your life? Once you get comfortable putting your voice on the page, you could expand your writing into a legacy letter or even a book-length memoir that your family will cherish for generations.
4. Social Interaction and Engagement.
The connections we have with other people can have a significant impact on the connections between our brain cells. A study by Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience linked social isolation to cognitive decline as we age. Another study published in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that seniors who have strong social connections are less likely to experience cognitive decline and dementia.
Investing more of your time and effort in your most important relationships can be one of the most rewarding experiences in retirement. But meeting new people can also stimulate your brain with new personalities, ideas, and life experiences. Consider volunteering, joining social clubs, or ramping up your travel schedule.
Taking a more proactive approach to your financial planning can also give your brain some added exercise in retirement. The educational events we host in person and online at Keen Wealth are a major part of our mission to make comprehensive financial planning more accessible and understandable. Learning more about how your plan works and working with an advisor to prepare for major life events can make you feel more confident about your money and more excited about your retirement.
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Bill Keen is a financial advisor with nearly 30 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he focuses on providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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