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Published on: October 2, 2013
by Daily Mail:
Planning to put your feet up in retirement? You may deserve a good rest but too much time in the armchair could be bad for the mind.
Taking up a hobby or two, however, can boost brain power into old age. Scientists said stimulating activities such as sport, reading, socialising and travelling, not only keep the mind sharp but also stave off depression that can set in when we suddenly stop working.
And if you have a long list of things you want to do in retirement, stick to it, for taking up several hobbies can keep the mind healthier for longer. Retirement coincides with the start of a natural decline in brain power that old age brings, the researchers said.
They warned the switch from busy working life can leave a void which needs to be filled, otherwise our brains slow down faster.
Even mild signs of depression can mean a retiree is likely to suffer a deterioration in their brain power once they finish working for good – highlighting the importance of keeping busy with enjoyable activities, they added.
A team from Concordia University in Montreal suggested that people retiring from managerial jobs or professional work were more likely to keep their faculties than those who had unskilled or clerical occupations.
Clinical psychologist Dr Larry Baer, who led the study, explained: ‘Retirement usually occurs right around the time when normal age-related declines in cognitive function come to the fore.
‘So it is important to understand what is happening to brain power during this period and to identify risk factors for mental decline, as well as factors that will help protect against it.’
Dr Baer’s team looked at reports conducted over four years on 333 healthy retirees with an average age of 59. The findings, published in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, concluded that pensioners should be encouraged to take up several mentally demanding hobbies to keep their brains healthy.
Dr Baer said: ‘It is my hope that these results will influence the design of future interventions aimed at maintaining the cognitive health of retirees.
‘This can be done by focusing on getting people to intensify their engagement in a variety of cognitive activities, even if they have lower levels of motivation to do so.
‘It is equally important to address symptoms of depression to help fight against cognitive decline.’
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