Work is a constant challenge that keeps your mind sharp. Whatever your occupation, you needed to both think on your feet and spend time in contemplation. Logic, math, science – whatever the subject we swore we’d never use again when learning them in school – were ubiquitous despite our incorrect assertions. But once you stop working, that is no longer the case. Problem solving is often times a thing of the past. That’s why, no matter your age upon retirement, it is important to find a hobby. Why? Because hobbies replace the mental manipulation that was a minute by minute fixture of your working days.
The key is to do something that keeps your mind sharp. Because using your head has multiple benefits.
According to the European Journal of Epidemiology, which reviewed recent studies done in the US and 12 European countries, the memory problems are correlated to age of retirement – the earlier one retires, the more likely they are to eventually have memory issues. One study showed that short-term memory decreased 40% faster once employees retired. So consider a hobby that places a barrier to stop the erosion of mental acuity.
Kelly Lambert, a University of Richmond neuroscientist, likens working with the hands to pharmaceuticals because the actual neurochemistry of the brain can be positively altered through craftwork. In addition to cognitive benefits (the Journal of Neuropsychiatry showed that crafting, playing games, and reading books could reduce the chance of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30 to 50%), crafting is used to treat soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder; CNN reported one study showed 81% of over knitters with depression reported feeling happy after knitting. 50% felt very happy.
In another study from University College of London, Dr Daisy Fancourt found that basketwork conducted by stroke patients helped re-establish neural pathways and improve brain plasticity. It can do the same for people suffering from dementia. Creativity can be used to control emotions, to boost self esteem, and as a means of reflection and contemplation.
Gardening has similar positive impacts. According to a study called “The benefits of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing”, gardening reduces dementia risky by 36% in people aged 60 or older. A bacteria in soil releases serotonin, a natural anti-depressant that strengthens the immune system, into the brain.
AgingInPlace.org is a website whose goal is to help people
stay in their home as they age. They’ve
actually been able to identify specific benefits for different types of
hobbies. Music helps to reduce blood
pressure and elevate mood. Meditation helps
induce positive outlook and reduce anxiety.
Reading, and recounting what has been read, is a significant means of
improving cognitive ability. Problem
solving, a constant during everyone’s careers that is typically lost upon
retirement, can be replaced through working puzzles. They also reduce blood pressure and heart
rate, while 3D puzzles especially improve manual dexterity. Research reveals that playing brain games
delays dementia’s onset in older people.
Hobbies are critical in retirement. But they often don’t come cheap. Woodworking requires tools. Car restorations require expensive tools,
materials, and, of course, cars. Art
work like sculpting, painting, and pottery typically require retrofitting kids’
old rooms into studios and have their own equipment and material costs. So approach your hobby the SmartRE way – use
the money frozen in your home equity to fund your retirement hobbies.