Your brain needs you to have friends for retirement

Portrait of happy middle aged female friends enjoying vacation at beach

Image: Nosnibor137/Bigstock.com

People need people. That’s true in all types of situations. And the evidence is that when it comes to brain health, we do need people—social connections.

The Global Council of Brain Health (GCBH) recently reported, ‘Research suggests that older people who are more socially engaged and have larger social networks tend to have a higher level of cognitive function.’

One of the scary things about ageing is the thought that our brain function may diminish. The scary part is not forgetting where the car keys are, but forgetting who you are.

You’ll probably find the car keys—especially if you keep putting them in the same place. Recovering from forgetting who you are will be much harder. That means that anything we can do to maintain a healthy brain is worth doing.

The GCBH issued several recommendations for ‘adults aged 50+ to maintain and build social connections in order to help support their cognitive health over their lifespan’. You’ll find five of them below.

As we age our social networks can change and often grow smaller. Transitioning into retirement is a life change that can also lead to fewer social connections. We need to attempt to hold onto and grow meaningful relationships.

Loneliness also causes an increase in the risk of both mental and physical disorders, says the report. Loneliness is defined as the ‘gap between social engagement [individuals] want and what they have’.

To counter loneliness and to keep our brains healthy we need to maintain friendships and relationships. That’s connecting with people within our families and with people outside.

5 ways to be socially connected

Here are some suggestions to become or remain socially connected—for the sake of your brain.

1. Focus on the relationships or social activities you enjoy the most.

2. A good marriage is excellent for brain health, but you should have other important relationships as well.

3. Be active and challenge yourself to try out organised clubs, courses, interest groups, political organisations, religious gatherings, or cooking classes.

4. If you feel lonely, try to make new connections, seek different opportunities to engage with others.

5. Try to keep a circle of friends, family, or neighbours with whom you can exchange ideas, thoughts, concerns and practical matters, and who also help or encourage you. This is a group of people who are important to you and you are important to them.

You’ll find more suggestions in the report.

Maintaining our brain health for retirement and in retirement is important. Social connectedness is key. This might be a good time to phone a friend.

Bruce Manners is the author of Retirement Ready? and Refusing to Retire, and founder of RetireNotes.com

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Category: Brain Health, Connecting

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