Yes, you can work at keeping your brain alive and active

Senior student in class

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Forgetting is a normal part of ageing. It isn’t a sign you’re developing Alzheimer’s. I remember the relief I felt when psychologist Deanna Pitchford told me that as I interviewed her for my book Retirement Ready?

When we begin to think about retiring, it’s a reminder that we’re getting older. And age can bring a whole raft of issues with it. Dementia or Alzheimer’s is one of the big fears.

Harvard Health reports that there are some things you can do to keep your brain functioning better. It begins with good health habits: being active; getting enough sleep; not smoking; having good social connections; proper diet and so on.

If you have health issues, follow your doctor’s advice closely. It may just help protect your memory.

Then there are four active things you can do to help keep your mind sharp.

1. Keep learning

It could be in education, but it needs to be something that keeps you mentally active. You could pursue a hobby or learn a new skill—a new language will test your brain.

‘Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them.’

2. Use all your senses

Studies have shown that the more senses you use in learning something, the more of your brain is involved in retaining the memory. That can involve such things as smell, taste, or even the breeze on your face.

‘Challenge all your senses as you venture into the unfamiliar.’

3. Prioritise your brain use

If you set yourself up so you don’t have to remember the ordinary—where you put the car keys, the time of an appointment—you can concentrate on learning the new and remember the important things. Have a place for things like the keys; use a calendar for appointments.

4. Repeat what you want to know

When there’s something you want to remember, repeat it out loud or write it down to reinforce the memory or connection. When you’ve just been told someone’s name, use it. For example: ‘So, John, where did you meet Camille?’

Harvard Health says these are some of the proven ways to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia. It’s worth the effort.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Brain Health

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