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How to avoid becoming senile:

Don’t retire. You know the old expression, “Use it or lose it?” It’s correct.

Nobody’s saying you need to do back-breaking work until you’re 94 but retirement often involves too little mental stimulation and that can hasten mental decline:

Some studies suggest that people can maintain their cognitive abilities through “mental exercise.” This has not been unequivocally proven. Retirement is associated with a large change in a person’s daily routine and environment. In this paper, the authors propose two mechanisms how retirement may lead to cognitive decline. For many people retirement leads to a less stimulating daily environment. In addition, the prospect of retirement reduces the incentive to engage in mentally stimulating activities on the job. They investigate the effect of retirement on cognition empirically using cross-nationally comparable surveys of older persons in the United States, England, and 11 European countries in 2004. They find that early retirement has a significant negative impact on the cognitive ability of people in their early 60s that is both quantitatively important and causal. Identification is achieved using national pension policies as instruments for endogenous retirement. 
Source: Mental Retirement from Rand Working Paper Series WR-711

Across the board, it really pays to keep living like you’re young. Just your attitude toward aging can affect how you age. Even better is to literally think and behave like your younger self. Having a mid-life crisis is avoidable and you can keep an aging brain sharp.

What’s a good first step? I recommend learning something new and challenging.

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About Eric Barker