How To Delay Age-Related Cognitive Decline
I’ve written before on the subject of cognitive decline. Prior research has indicated that (1) it increases with age and (2) you won’t know that it’s occurring (see At Some Point You Need To Stop Investing). A recent British study on retired civil servants concluded that there are some things you can do in retirement to delay this process.
This latest study was based on previous research known as the Whitehall II study. Whitehall II took place between 1985 and 1988 and involved the collection of large amounts of data on over ten thousand British civil servants between the ages of 35 and 55 for the purpose of understanding the social determinants of health. The newer study – the determination of the effect of retirement on cognitive function – followed up on three thousand of the Whitehall II population for up to 14 years after retirement and focused on measurements of cognitive functioning. The study’s authors compared “trajectories of verbal memory, abstract reasoning, phonemic verbal fluency, and semantic verbal fluency before and after retirement.”
The scientists found that the one area that declined most significantly was verbal memory (verbal fluency and the ability to recall words). Although declines in the other cognitive domains were less pronounced, they admitted that the lack of a longer follow-up is one of the study’s limitations.
The good news is their conclusion that you can stem the decline in (at least) verbal memory through continued employment involving cognitively stimulating activities. More specifically, interacting with people and keeping busy appear to be most effective in keeping the brain functioning effectively.
This is consistent with the non-scientific findings I reported last year in What Does It Take To Be Happy In Retirement? It is further support for the theory that retirees who continue to be employed or who volunteer in an environment involving interacting with people are more likely to remain sharp as they age.
Sudoku is OK too but probably not enough.