How to Stay Healthy After Retirement

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  • Just because you retire doesn’t mean you have to slow down—and you shouldn’t. A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that employed older adults tend to have better health than retired older adults, and older adults with physically demanding jobs had the best health. However, by adding some key elements to your daily routine, you can keep yourself as active and sharp during retirement as you were during your working years. You’ve earned your retirement, so here’s how to stay healthy and get the most of all your years to come.

  • 1
    Get your blood pumping.
    Senior Couple Hiking

    Whether you’re hiking up a mountain trail, swinging a tennis racket, or even chasing your grandkids at the park, you’re doing your body good. Besides the fun factor, physical activities promote stronger bones, improved strength and balance, reduced risk of heart disease, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. With a stronger body, you reduce your risk of falling, which is the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults.

  • 2
    Combine physical and mental exercise for healthy aging.
    Smiling Woman Kneeling in Garden

    Studies also have shown physical exercise helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and some researchers suggest exercise may also improve immunity. You get credit for all kinds of physical activities, even slower paced ones, such as gardening or household repairs. For the biggest boost to your retirement health, combine physical and mental exercise by dancing the night away with your sweetheart—you’ll improve balance, cognitive acuity, and muscle memory.

  • 3
    Indulge your creative side.
    Senior women painting

    Without the mental gymnastics of working a full-time job, you can keep your brain in shape with more freeform activities to remain healthy throughout your retirement. One study showed that participants who engaged in creative hobbies were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who were intellectually inactive. Any type of mentally stimulating activity counts, so paint your masterpiece or practice guitar to your heart’s—and mind’s-content.

  • 4
    Watch (better) TV.
    middle age male lying on couch

    Television won’t necessarily turn your mind to mush; it all depends on the type of shows you watch. Watching TV can actually improve your brainpower when you use significant mental effort to understand what you’re watching, such as an educational science program. These types of cognitively enriching shows help your brain create new neural connections, which keep your memory sharp for the long run.

  • 5
    Play your cards right.
    Seniors playing cards

    Invite some friends over for the evening to play a few hands of bridge, and you just might give your immune system a boost at the same time. Research has linked bridge players’ need to use memory, visualization and sequencing during the game with increased numbers of immune cells afterward.

  • 6
    Rely on your friends.
    Senior women laughing outdoors

    After you retire, you naturally lose some of the social network you had at your job. But since work isn’t getting in the way of pleasure, you can dedicate more time to personal relationships, which is particularly important during retirement. Researchers say building up your “social capital” promotes health and happiness as people age. Planning frequent social activities—such as watching movies, attending sporting events, and playing games— is beneficial for everyone, including aging adults. Social connectedness decreases your chances of dementia, significant cognitive decline, and even physical disability.

  • 7
    Renew your sense of purpose.
    Service dog helping a woman with visual impairment at a curb

    Do you love preparing meals for wounded warriors or caring for animals at a local shelter? If so, you might just add years to your life. Research has shown that having a sense of purpose may help you live longer, and other studies have found that older adults who participate in activities they believe are meaningful often report they feel happier and healthier. One study found that older adults who mentored schoolchildren reported feelings of personal satisfaction, and researchers noticed signs of improved mental and physical health.

  • 8
    Make your health a priority.
    Senior Couple Doing Stretches

    Retiring from work doesn’t have to mean stepping back from a full, healthy life. In addition to these lifestyle steps for a healthy retirement, make sure to schedule regular doctor’s appointments, stay on track with any medications, and keep up with recommended screening exams. By making your health a priority in retirement, you can keep your mind and body acting as young as you feel.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jan 2
  1.  Kachan D, Fleming LE, Christ S, et al. Health Status of Older US Workers and Nonworkers, National Health Interview Survey, 1997–2011. Prev Chronic Dis. 2015;12:150040.
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  3. Exercise and immunity. Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007165.htm
  4. Stay Physically Active. Alzheimer’s Association. http://www.alz.org/we_can_help_stay_physically_active.asp
  5. Eibich P. Understanding the effect of retirement on health: Mechanisms and Heterogeneity. Journal of Health Economics. 2015 ;43:1-12.
  6. Radak Z, Hart N, Sarga L, Koltai E, et al. Exercise plays a preventive role against Alzheimer's disease. J Alzheimer's Dis. 2010;20(3):777-83. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20182027
  7. Wilson R, Scherr, P, Schneider J, et al. Relation of cognitive activity to risk of developing Alzheimer disease. Neurology. 2007;69(20):1911-1920.
  8. Balbag M, Pedersen N, Gatz M. Playing a Musical Instrument as a Protective Factor against Dementia and Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Twin Study. International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 836748, 6 pages.
  9. Bergland C. Why Is Dancing So Good for Your Brain? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/why-is-dancing-so-good-your-brain
  10.  R. Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter. Stanford University. http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/smarter.htm
  11. Kravetz D. 10 Ways to Boost Your Cognitive Fitness and Longevity. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-kravetz/10-ways-to-boost-your-cognitive-fitness_b_3195153.html
  12. Participating in Activities You Enjoy—More Than Just Fun and Games. National Institute on Aging. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/participating-activities-you-enjoy
  13. Saraceno J. A Bridge to Brainpower? AARP. http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-2015/bridge-for-brain-health.html
  14. Sanders R. Contract bridge enhances the immune system, according to a preliminary study by researchers at UC Berkeley. University of California, Berkeley. http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2000/11/08_bridge.html
  15. Suttie J. How Social Connections Keep Seniors Healthy. Greater Good. University of California, Berkeley. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_social_connections_keep_seniors_healthy
  16. Diament M. Friends Make You Smart. AARP. http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-11-2008/friends-are-good-for-your-brain.html
  17. Having a Sense of Purpose May Add Years to Your Life. Association for Psychological Science. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/having-a-sense-of-purpose-in-life-may-ad...

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