Here is question 15 of 25 from Brain Fitness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Questions.
I don’t want to ever retire. What can I do to remain sharp?
- Provide your brain with regular mental stimulation that is novel and challenging.
- Maintain your social network for both stimulation and stress reduction.
“Research has shown that contrary to popular belief, the brain is constantly undergoing neurogenesis, the development of new neurons and dendrites,” said Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, Clinical Professor of Neurology at New York University School of Medicine. “Learning and targeted mental exercise promotes neurogenesis – the creation of new neurons – just as muscle growth is promoted through physical exercise.”
Work out, eat well, stimulate your brain, and reduce chronic stress.
Any good brain fitness program must provide you a variety of new challenges over time. Recreational activities like bridge, classes, and crossword puzzles can work your brain and be fun, but a comprehensive scientifically-based program will easily provide you the tools you need to take care of your brain for the rest of your life. A computer-based program can work all of your mental muscles systematically and regularly. It provides novelty, challenge, and stretching practice for your mind.
Fred Gage, PhD at the Salk Institute shows us that using your brain is the best way to optimize your brain function:
“In the natural course of aging there is cognitive decline. We know we lose the ability to generate new neurons with age. We are currently trying to figure out how generate as many neurons as possible to potentially enhance learning or increase the amount of neurogenesis in adults.”
Stress reduction is another major concern. Maintaining your exercise routine and social networks will help a lot in this regard. Make social appointments to go for a walk with a friend or family member. Get a dog. Write letters to friends you haven’t talked to in ages. Volunteer in your community. Take ballroom dancing lessons. All these activities will help keep you mentally engaged, physically fit, and socially active.
- Ball LJ, Birge SJ. Prevention of brain aging and dementia. Clin Geriatr Med. 2002;18:485-503.
- Goldberg, Elkhonon. 2005. The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older New York City: Gotham Books. ISBN: 1592401104.
- Hultsch D, et al. Use it or lose it: Engaged lifestyle as a buffer of cognitive decline in aging? Psychology and Aging. 1999;14:245-263.
- Kramer AF, Bherer L, Colcombe SJ, Dong W, Greenough WT. Environmental influences on cognitive and brain plasticity during aging. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2004;59:M940-57.
- McDaniel MA, Maier SF, Einstein GO. “Brain-specific” nutrients: a memory cure? Nutrition. 2003;19:957-75.
- Scarmeas N, Stern Y. Cognitive reserve and lifestyle. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2003;25:625-33.
- Small GW, Silverman DH, Siddarth P, Ercoli LM, Miller KJ, Lavretsky H, Wright BC, Bookheimer SY, Barrio JR, Phelps ME. Effects of a 14-day healthy longevity lifestyle program on cognition and brain function. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2006;14:538-45.
- Willis SL, Tennstedt SL, Marsiske M, et al. Long-term effects of cognitive training on everyday functional outcomes in older adults. JAMA. 2006;296:2805-14.
- Wolinsky FD, Unverzagt FW, Smith DM, Jones R, Stoddard A, Tennstedt SL. The ACTIVE Cognitive Training Trial and Health-Related Quality of Life: Protection That Lasts for 5 Years. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2006;61:1324-9.