November 26, 2020 — You see the person coming down the aisle toward you and… panic! A minute ago their name was on the tip of your tongue, but now it is gone! Or, you are describing something to a friend, and the name of the book or the noun you are looking for has completely escaped you. It happens to all of us, but new research indicates that it is more likely to occur in people who are retired than people of the same age who are working.
Ross Andel, director of the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida, tested the memories of people in their early 60s living in Canberra, Australia over almost a 20 year period. In the Australian test, starting at age 60 subjects were were asked to remember as many random and unrelated words in a list as they could. The tests were repeated every 4 years.
The most startling conclusion from the study was that people who were retired suffered much greater memory loss compared to people of the same age who were still working. Although it is natural for our brains to slow down as we age, he warns that retiring carries a risk that can “speed up the aging of our brain. It could make us slower and more forgetful.”
So what can we do about it
Andel has a short Ted Talk video that explains the study along with suggestions with how to avoid memory loss in retirement. His theory is that while we are working we face a number of challenges every day that keep us engaged. After completing these tasks we get satisfaction, and feel excitement about the weekend coming, when we can relax and let loose. Andel recommends trying to replicate those challenges by doing something that occupies us. That might be reengaging with the family, doing volunteer work, taking a course, finding an interesting hobby you always wanted to take up, or a part-time job.
He makes the point that if someone gave you $1440 every day you would probably be excited to spend part of your day thinking about how you will spend or invest it. Well as retirees we get 1440 minutes a day – an important gift we should value. When we were working about 480 of those minutes went to the job – Andel thinks we should invest those in something important that engages us. With that done we can re-create that feeling of weekend anticipation, satisfied that we have done something important to deserve it. He believes this is the key to keeping your brain accurate and memory in high gear.
This is not the only study to conclude that retirement can be hazardous to your health (see below). If you are retired, use some of your time to replicate that feeling of accomplishment you had when you were working. His wish – for everyone to find their post retirement dream and hang on to it.
For further reading:
- Retirement 101: 9 Modules to Help You Get Ready
- Caution to Men: Retirement Might Be Hazardous to Your Health
Comments? What are you doing to keep your brain engaged and active every day? Are you experiencing memory loss, and does it worry you? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.