Everyone has some level of concern over losing his or her mental edge. For some, it’s a joke here and there about the car keys, for others, it’s a major source of stress. True, you may not be able to stop a medical condition from developing at some point. If you are reading and understanding this, however, you have the power to positively impact your future!
When you were working full time, you had plenty of demands to focus on each day. Once you are free from the daily grind, your mind is also freed. But it can become lazy. The ability to relax and enjoy a more laid-back pace is great for your blood pressure, but don’t let it rob your wit.
There is value in taking up a hobby or learning a new skill; and now you can make it something you enjoy. Had that dream of being a rock star? Take guitar lessons. Never got to be a cowboy? Hello, equestrian class. Love the galleries? Painting or sculpting opportunities are at your fingertips. If those sound like too much work, try these: Read. Play strategy or card games like chess, canasta – or even Risk®. Crossword, word searches or jigsaw puzzles also keep your mind humming!
Setting a routine for where you keep your wallet, purse, jacket, keys or glasses makes tasks “no brainers.” “This drawer is where I put my wallet.” “This is the hook where I hang my keys every time I come in the door.” “This is the basket for my glasses.” Write down a list of daily activities for which you can design simple systems and set them up. Practice a few times daily if you need to – until the “habit” starts to form. Not only will this reduce stress, it frees your mind to focus and concentrate on more important things.
The MacArthur Foundation Study on Successful Aging, a long-term study of aging in America, found that education predicts cognitive power as you age. Whether through formal education or complex tasks performed in the work force, they contribute to brain strength. You can still benefit from the pathways you’ve created along the way.
It isn’t so much the type of stimuli that matters in benefitting memory, it’s the enrichment. An engaged, interested brain wants to make – and keep – more connections. The more connections, the more nimble the brain. Whether you learn a new language or how to crochet, “new” anything can help your brain stay young.
This can be challenging after retirement. Friends scatter, some becoming snowbirds or permanently going south. Others face health challenges that keep them from interacting. But just as you learned as a kid, there are new friends to be made.
- Have you thought about volunteering at a museum or organization?
- How about getting to that pool game, even if you don’t know the players?
- Church groups and local schools may want to team up with your community for reading time, tutoring help or shared studies.
Social relationships can be wonderful during stressful times, and reduce the negative effects of stress on the brain. You may have a network of family members, or maybe they are too far to be part of the day-to-day. Your community staff can be great friends – and caring members of your network.
In short, don’t give up if you feel like you are out of the loop. Make a plan. Stop that social butterfly you know the next time you see him or her. Tell him or her that you admire his or her outgoing personality and ask if you can attend a function or event so that you can meet some new friends. Taking steps to get back on the scene, even if you need a little help – is worth the effort, for you and your new buddies.