Is Retirement Bad for Your Memory?

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

We've all heard the "use it or lose it" mantra. It was originally intended as a descriptor for maintaining physical fitness and, in recent ears, has crossed over to the realm of mental fitness.

Research from the University of Michigan shows a correlation between memory capacity in older adults and the age at which they retired. Specifically, it showed that adults from countries where retirement happens at earlier ages, did not perform as well on memory tests as adults from countries where work is more prolonged.

That seems like a fairly indirect path to a conclusion that may have been tighter had the researchers merely collected "age of retirement" from each subject, rather than using the average retirement age of the country from which each subject hailed. However, there is something to be said for the latter approach. Perhaps cultural norms extend across similarly aged people and keep them similarly engaged in intellectual activities, with employment being only one of those activities.

Regardless of the design of this particular study, there is ample research suggesting that keeping your brain engaged seems to preserve mental function. I recently commented on it with this post that links to an excellent summary of the evidence.

Retirement sounds inviting, but disengaging from all intellectual rigor is probably not be a beneficial path to pursue.

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