‘We think it’s cognitive engagement’—a study finds that delaying retirement may help ward off dementia

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This article is reprinted with permission NextAvenue.org,

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We’ve all heard someone say this: They’ve decided to work beyond retirement age to “keep their mind sharp.” Now, there is some science behind that widely held belief.

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Three researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany have released a study showing Measurable difference in cognitive decline between those who exit the workforce earlier versus later in life, Some differences were very sharp.

“Oh, that’s enough of course,” says Jo Mharry Hale, a sociologist at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and lead author of the study.

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Hale’s team pulled their data massively Health and Retirement Studies, a comprehensive ongoing collection of information on 20,000 Americans maintained by the University of Michigan.

What the study found about cognitive decline

The authors did not try to pinpoint an optimal retirement age—which would depend heavily on individual circumstances—but their results suggest, generally speaking, laying it out by age 67 (versus age 55 and 66). retiring between the ages of Rs. Types of cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Subjects in the study, an average of 61 to 67 years of age, saw a one-third reduction in general cognitive decline. Furthermore, the positive effects may be lasting, say the authors, from age 67 until at least age 74.

Hale says a surprising finding was that it didn’t matter what kind of work you do—whether it was overly brain-intensive or almost mindless. It all helps. In fact, cognitive benefits may not be related have paid Employment of course.

“The three of us who wrote the paper are not suggesting that it is pay per se that is protective against cognitive decline,” Hale told Next Avenue. “We think it’s cognitive engagement.”

This idea stems from some specific findings from Hale’s team, including that having just one spouse offers some protection against falls.

“What if you retire at age 60 but you are a grandparent and part of your daily activity becomes grandparenting?” Muscles hello. “Or you’re an active volunteer. Or you work part-time or whatever as a muse. Does it provide the same kind of protective effect against cognitive decline? I guess it does.”

What matters, Hale said, “is the cognitive engagement, not that you get paid for your cognitive engagement.”

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A 75-year-old man is finding ways to challenge himself

Case in point: Beverly Farr of Richmond, Calif. At 75, she’s retired more than five years from her work as an educational researcher, but that doesn’t mean she’s slowed down. opposite of this.

“I just loved being active and wanted to be active,” Farr says. “And I think a small part of it was the idea of ​​keeping your mind active and, you know, staying active in general.”

that he has done. Today, Farr combines church activities with being a court-appointed advocate for foster youth. She also took on the daunting task of presiding over the homeowners association of her 488-unit condo complex. As if that wasn’t enough, Farr began managing his boutique research firm part-time when his brother, Roger, died in 2019.

She especially credits the work of the often thankless homeowners association for keeping her on her toes.

“It just energizes me,” Farr says. “It gave me a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm and inspired me to get things done.”

Hale notes that such engagement benefits men and women alike, even though prior studies have shown that men tend to rely more on their jobs for their personal identities and social networks. This also applies to racial and ethnic differences.

After reviewing the study’s findings, says Paul Irving’s Milken Institute Center for the Future, “I wasn’t surprised at all.” (he is also a Next Avenue Influencer in Aging,

check out: Want to share your life experiences and help others? Here’s How To Do It Well

importance of purpose

“Meeting other people and connecting with other people is stimulating,” Irving says. “Work can be challenging and provide opportunities for learning. Adaptability and flexibility are required in a changing environment. I think it has an impact on brain health.”

Irving says Max Planck’s results help confirm earlier research, including a 2018 study that found that “Positive Age Beliefs” May Be a Buffer Against Dementia, even in people who are genetically predisposed to age-related cognitive impairment.

Irving points to other research that suggests factors such as purpose, relationships and lifelong learning, along with body-mass index, smoking, and exercise, as determinants of longevity.

“Having some sense of challenge, a reason to wake up in the morning—best defined as purpose,” says Irving, whose 2014 book, “The Upside of Aging,” emphasized the importance of the “P-word.” .

“This notion of purpose throughout life, but especially the attainment of purpose” Later In life, just couldn’t be more important,” Irving says. “And that can be achieved in many ways. We all define our own purpose, and this can be family or community activity or volunteering. But work can be part of it to a large extent.”

People who feel a sense of purpose, stay engaged, and continue to include themselves in the world, Irving says, tend to be happier and healthier.

Irving notes, “And the core benefit of this is that they continue to provide value – their knowledge and judgment and experience – that benefits all of us, young people as well.”

you might like: Why My Retirement Won’t Include a ‘Bucket List’

Hale’s key conclusion from his team’s results: “I think what we can say is that you basically need to be, as always, cognitively engaged, for as long as you can. And honesty.” By the way, it’s not about doing crossword puzzles. I mean, Doing Your crossword puzzle, but cognitive engagement needs to be looked at more broadly. Our paper suggests that full-time work is one way to do this.”

Craig Miller’s career in broadcast and journalism spans more than 40 years, although since 2008, his focus has been on climate science and policy tracking. Miller launched and edited the award-winning Climate Watch multimedia initiative for KQED in San Francisco, where he remained science editor until August of 2019. Prior to KQED, he spent two decades as a television reporter and documentary producer at major market stations. As well as CNN and MSNBC. When he’s not working, his favorite spot is in his kayak on a beautiful river or mountain lake.

This article is reprinted with permission NextAvenue.org, © 2021 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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