When we talk with our clients about healthy aging, the biggest single thing most of them worry about is cognitive decline. There is probably no other health condition that so completely robs retirees of their dream to live independently. Cognitive decline is often the chief factor that results in seniors being forced into institutional care against their wishes.
But here’s the good news: cognitive decline is not inevitable as we age. That’s according to a major study on brain health conducted by the National Academy of Science and cosponsored by AARP. There are several things you can do – and several things you should avoid – if you want to maximize your Brain Health. Click here to read the related article we found last fall on the AARP website. It may be a few months old, but the information is both current and relevant.
The bottom line is this: as you plan for your retirement years (something with which we welcome the chance to assist you) you also need to make some intentional choices you alone can make. The tips on maximizing brain health from the AARP article all involve things only you can do for you. These are choices no one else can make on your behalf.
For example, most of us realize that exercise is linked to retaining cognitive health. It’s especially effective if instead of shorter sessions you exercise for 30 minutes or more at a time, but even shorter exercise sessions can help. No matter how you start, the important thing is to begin taking steps now. Settling for a sedentary lifestyle is really asking for trouble, mentally as well as physically.
Another brain-saving tip is staying active both socially and intellectually. Look for ways to challenge your mind, even with simple things like card games and crossword puzzles. When it comes to social interaction, many seniors stay mentally vital through volunteering, something that brings a whole host of benefits. Attending worship services also stimulates both the mind and the soul while helping get you out and about. So does taking classes, learning a hobby or discovering the joys of art or music.
The AARP article includes other ways you can help avoid or delay mental decline. One is diet. It often surprises us how many seniors fall back on bad eating habits as they age, even though maintaining a healthy diet is vital to good mental and physical well-being. Getting adequate sleep and maintaining proper heart health are all also closely linked to preserving mental acuity as we age, and these are things you have at least some power to control.
If activities like exercise, socializing and eating right help keep your brain healthy as you age, AARP reminds us that several things do rob us of mental acuity. Some of these are harder to overcome or avoid, such as depression, which has been shown to double the risk of cognitive decline. However, even stress has been linked to accelerated loss in mental alertness, so doing what you can to avoid excess stress seems like (pardon the expression) a n0-brainer. Also, some medications can pose a particular danger for aging seniors concerned about brain health, so we urge you to get the best possible medical advice. (This is one of the reasons we strongly suggest to our senior clients that they use the services of a geriatric physician, or geriatrician, for their primary health care.)
As we always remind our clients and radio listeners, all of the various aspects of aging are interrelated. For example, your physical and mental health will affect the kinds of living choices that will be available to you. This in turn has a dramatic impact on your financial situation, not to mention the dynamics of communicating with those closest to you. Of course, in order to protect your assets in retirement, you also need a sound legal strategy. Is there one approach that encompasses all of these aspects of retirement planning? Fortunately, the answer is yes. It’s the process we call LifePlanning, a comprehensive and holistic method of retirement planning that prepares you for the future with a LifePlan of your own.
We invite you to take the first steps toward discovering the power of a LifePlan by attending one of our upcoming LifePlanning Seminars, held at locations throughout the region. For information and registration, click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website, or contact our office. We’ll look forward to meeting you soon.
(originally reported at www.aarp.org)