Field Work

Does Retiring Cause Memory Loss?

After four or five decades of work, retirement is liberating! It’s gonna be great! Right?

Well, not necessarily. It depends on how you retire.

In this video, Ross Andel, director of the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida, warns that a risk to retiring is that it can “speed up the aging of our brain. It could make us slower and more forgetful.”

His research demonstrates how work and retirement influence brain functioning. He tested the memories of people in their early 60s living in Canberra, Australia. Every four years, they were asked to remember as many random and unrelated words in a list as they could.

Naturally, they couldn’t remember as many words at 74 as at 62. “This is quite normal,” he said.

More interesting was what Andel found when he separated the test results for the retirees from the results for the older individuals who were still working. The decline in memory was almost exclusively among the retirees.

“Something seems to happen around the time of retirement to make people more forgetful,” he said.

Andel isn’t recommending that you work until you drop. He does provide a roadmap for limiting memory loss so you can enjoy retirement.

To find out what he has in mind, you’ll have to watch the video.

Squared Away writer Kim Blanton invites you to follow us on Twitter @SquaredAwayBC. To stay current on our blog, please join our free email list. You’ll receive just one email each week – with links to the two new posts for that week – when you sign up here. This blog is supported by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

3 Responses to Does Retiring Cause Memory Loss?

  1. Edward Coombs says:

    I’m curious if the results would be different if you compared retirees that used computers and those that didn’t. I would think a study started 15-20 years ago would have most retirees not using computers as much. Example: My wife retired 5+ years ago and was a store manager known for her organizational skills. She likes to play among other games, 4 suited spider solitaire and quite often clears the board. I know yard work and gardening can keep you active and help keep you in shape but they can be accomplished without much thought. Another variable could be family living with you. When you have 3 generations in the house, if nothing else, it takes a coordinated effort to coexist with cooking meals when you like different things. Reading several novels per week could help keep your mind active and doesn’t require a computer.

  2. Fish Jig says:

    Memory loss is probably just one of many consequences of retirement. A lack of stimulation can be disastrous for mental health which makes hobbies so important. I remember reading some time ago that even basic things like gardening can dramatically improve cognitive performance for the elderly.

  3. Peter Minev says:

    Very thought provoking! Always knew as a common sense and experience, that keeping to work instead of retiring keeps you in shape, but this is the first time I see a report to confirm that.

    I guess purpose and goals keep us sharp and in shape, and quite often they are related with our jobs. One day after many years when we retire, we need to rethink our reality and repurpose our goals. I guess that’s not easy.

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