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Important Things To Do For Your Brain Health

Developing dementia is one of the greatest fears for people over age 65.  Most of us are aware that age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The population is aging rapidly as the boomers are now turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day.

With baby boomers racing towards the age of Medicare, brain health has become one of today’s hottest health topics.  In addition to your body, you need to know what to do to help keep your brain in great shape.  There are many simple things you can do to protect your brain’s health as you get older, you just need to know them and be sure you do them.

The list below is designed to help you maintain your brain health and is based on the latest research related on keeping the brain healthy for a lifetime.  Many people think of brain health as consisting of doing a daily crossword puzzle.  While it is true that staying involved in mentally challenging activity is important, there is a lot more to it than that.

The brain is an amazingly complex organism that is impacted by everything we do from a health perspective. Many experts agree that what is good for the heart is good for the brain. Let’s do it for our brains.

 

The 14 Most Important Things to Do for the Health of Your Brain

 

1. Stay Hydrated

Given that your brain is about 80 percent water, the first rule of brain nutrition, adequate water to hydrate your brain.  Next to oxygen, water is the most important nutrient your body needs to function properly.  Water also makes up nearly 70 percent of the human body and plays a vital role in nearly every bodily function, including:

  • Regulating temperature.
  • Carrying nutrients throughout the body.
  • Improving the digestive process.
  • Eliminating waste.

Even slight dehydration can raise stress hormones, which can damage your brain over time. Drink at least 84 ounces (8-10 glasses) of water a day.  It is best to have your liquids unpolluted with artificial sweeteners, sugar, caffeine, or alcohol.  You can use herbal, non-caffeinated tea bags, such as raspberry or strawberry flavored to make unsweetened iced tea.  Green tea is also good for brain function as it contains chemicals that enhance mental relaxation and alertness.

Without proper fluid intake, the body becomes dehydrated. Untreated and severe dehydration can lead to seizures, permanent brain damage, and even death.  Seniors need to take special precautions because their thirst mechanism is not as sensitive as it once was.

 

Nutrition experts recommend the following tips for getting enough fluid during the day:

  • Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of liquid every day.
  • Limit caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, which increase your body’s fluid needs.
  • Drink throughout the day, not only when you are thirsty.
  • Carry bottled water with you if you’ll be outdoors for an extended period of time.
  • Drink water before, during, and after exercise to offset the fluid your body loses through perspiration.
  • Keep track of your fluid intake throughout the day to ensure you stay properly hydrated.

 

2. Eat Well

Fresh fruits and vegetables have many health benefits, including supporting brain health.

Eat organic if you can. Take fish oil to get the right amount of fatty acids, the acids that your brain depends on to function. You need at least 600 milligrams of combined DHA/EPA, recommended per day.

Reduce your intake of foods high in fat and cholesterol.  Studies have shown that high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol clogs arteries and is associated with higher risk for Alzheimer’s. However, HDL (or “good”) cholesterol may help protect brain cells. So, use mono and polyunsaturated fats, like olive oil, for example. Try baking or grilling food instead of frying.

In addition, substantial research indicates that a calorie-restricted diet is helpful for brain and life longevity.  Simply put, eating less helps us live longer.  By controlling your weight, you decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke from obesity. This triggers certain mechanisms in the body to increase the production of nerve growth factors, which are helpful to the brain.

Researchers use the acronym CRON for “calorie restriction with optimal nutrition,” in other words, make these calories count.

Increase your intake of protective foods

Current research suggests that certain foods may not only reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, but also appear to protect brain cells.

In general, dark-skinned fruits and vegetables have the highest levels of naturally occurring antioxidant levels.  Such vegetables include: kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, beets, red bell pepper, onion, corn and eggplant.  Fruits with high antioxidant levels include prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes, and cherries.

Cold water fish contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids including: halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna.  Some nuts can also be beneficial to your diet and include: almonds, pecans and walnuts are a good source of vitamin E, another antioxidant.

As a reminder, there is not enough information available to indicate what quantities of these foods are most beneficial for brain health. For example, it is not clear how much fruit would have to be consumed to have a detectable benefit.

However, a study of elderly women showed that those who ate the most green, leafy, and cruciferous vegetables in the group were shown to display one to two year younger mental function than women who ate none to few of these vegetables.

Vitamins may also be helpful. There is some indication that vitamins, such as vitamin E, or vitamins E and C together, vitamin B12 and folate may be important in lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.  A brain-healthy diet will help increase your intake of these vitamins and the trace elements necessary for the body to use them effectively.

DHA, one form of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, makes up a large portion of the gray matter in your brain. The fat in your brain forms cell membranes and plays a vital role in how our cells function. Neurons are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Research in the last few years has revealed that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help promote a healthy, emotional balance, and positive mood later in life. This has to do with DHA, which again, is a main component of the brain’s synapses.

A number of studies have shown that dietary intake of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables significantly reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairment.

The research was done because it was theorized that free radical formation plays a major role in the deterioration of the brain with age.  When a cell converts oxygen into energy, tiny molecules called free radicals are made.  When produced in normal amounts, free radicals work to rid the body of harmful toxins, thereby keeping it healthy.

When produced in toxic amounts, however, free radicals damage the body’s cellular machinery, resulting in cell death and tissue damage. This process is called oxidative stress. Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and beta-carotene inhibit the production of free radicals.

3. Exercise This

There are studies that show regular aerobic exercise can boost your intellectual performance.  As such, to benefit your brain and your body, get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, 5-6 days a week. Aerobic exercise also makes your blood circulate which brings more oxygen to the brain.

Based on a review of studies on exercise and its effect on brain functions in human populations, researchers find that physical exercise may slow the effects of aging and help people maintain cognitive abilities well into their old age.  Furthermore, fitness training or an increased level of exercise, may improve some mental processes even more than moderate activity, according to the authors of the review.

Different methodologies were examined to comprehensively study what effects exercise can have. The researchers first examined the epidemiological literature of diseases to determine whether exercise and physical activity can at certain points in a person’s lifetime improve cognitive ability and decrease the likelihood of age-related neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s.  Researchers reviewed longitudinal randomized trial studies to see if specific fitness training had an affect on cognition and brain function in older adults.

Based on this review of the epidemiological literature, the researchers found a significant relationship between physical activity, later cognitive function, and decreased occurrence of dementia. With benefits possibly lasting several decades.

In a few of the studies that examined men and women over 65 years old, the findings showed that those who exercised for at least 15-30 minutes at a time three times a week were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, even if they were genetically predisposed to the disease.

By examining the human intervention studies, a relationship was also found between fitness training, improved cognition, and more efficient brain function being retained in terms of brain volume in older people.  In a four year study looking at the relationship between physical activity on cognition and brain function in 62-70 year olds, those who continued to work and retirees who exercised showed sustained levels of cerebral blood flow with greater levels of performance on general measures of cognition as compared to a group of retirees considered inactive.

Other studies confirmed the evidence that fitness does have positive effects on brain function in older adults.  A study of older adults who were randomly assigned to either a walking group or a stretching and toning control group for six months, found that those in the walking group were better able to ignore distracting information in a distractibility task than those in the control group.

 4. Give it a Rest

Your lifestyle can also impact your brain health.  Simple items such as getting a good night’s sleep can do wonders to keep your brain functioning.

Scientists have shown just what an important role sleep plays in the effective functioning of the brain.  Students suffering revision nightmares would be better off getting a good night’s sleep than opting for late-night cramming sessions, according to the team at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF).

The researchers found sleep dramatically improves the way changes take place in the connections between nerve cells in the brain.  These changes underpin the brain’s control of behavior, learning, and memory.

Think about all the factors that can interfere with a good night’s sleep — from pressure at work and family responsibilities to unexpected challenges, such as layoffs, relationship issues or illnesses. It’s no wonder that quality sleep is sometimes hard to come by.

Although you might not be able to control all of the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep.  Start with these simple steps to a better night’s sleep.

No. 1: Stick to a sleep schedule

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays, and days off.  Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night.  There’s a caveat, however.  If you don’t fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing.  Go back to bed when you’re tired.  If you agonize over falling asleep, you might find it even harder to nod off.

No. 2: Pay attention to what you eat and drink

Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed.  And limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.

Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol all deserve consideration, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine can take hours to wear off and destroy your chances for quality sleep.  And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it often disrupts sleep later in the night.

No. 3: Create a bedtime ritual

Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind it down and hit the sack.  Maybe try taking a warm bath or shower or try reading a book. If you prefer, try listening to soothing music with the lights dimmed. Relaxing activities can lead to better sleep by easing the transition between being awake and drowsiness.

Many people watch T.V. before bedtime, but you should be wary of TV or other electronic devices, because some research suggests that such screen time before bedtime interferes with sleep.

No. 4: Get comfortable

Create a room that you find absolutely ideal for sleeping.  For some, this means cool, dark and quiet.  Consider room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. The mattress and pillow you use can also contribute to better sleep. So, choose what feels most comfortable to you and if you share your bed, make sure there’s room for two.

No. 5: Limit daytime naps

Afternoon naps are the sworn enemy of nighttime sleep.  If you choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it no later than during the mid-afternoon.

No. 6: Include physical activity in your daily routine

Regular physical activity can help you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep throughout the night.  Timing is important, however.  Exercise too close to bedtime and you might find that you’re too energized to fall asleep.  If this happens to you, exercise earlier in the day only.

No. 7: Manage stress

When you have too much to do and think about, your sleep can suffer.  It can help to learn about some healthy ways to manage stress. Start with the basics, get organized, set priorities, and delegate tasks.  Give yourself permission to take a break and stop thinking when you need one. Go out of your way to share a few laughs with friend.  Some say it helps if before bed, you jot down what’s on your mind on a pad and then set it aside for tomorrow.

No. 8: Know when to contact your doctor

Just about everyone has the occasional sleepless night, but if it is becoming a common occurrence, it may be a good idea to contact your doctor.  Identifying and treating any underlying causes may be the answer to you getting the sleep you need and deserve.

5. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Studies have also shown that maintaining a healthy weight with a low ratio of stomach fat can lower your risk of memory loss, as you get older.  A long-term study of 1,500 adults found that those who were obese in middle age were twice as likely to develop dementia in later life.  Those who also had high cholesterol and high blood pressure had six times the risk of dementia.  Adopt an overall food lifestyle, rather than a short-term diet and always eat in moderation.

Additionally, it’s common knowledge, that what is good for your heart is good for your head.  Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, particularly abdominal fat all raise the risk for age-related cognitive decline. Certain vices also raise the risks including smoking and heavy drinking.  A heart-healthy diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, fish, whole grains, olive oil, and a minimum of saturated fat, is the brain-healthy way to go.

Even with a healthy diet, when you add inactivity, we begin to gain extra weight as our metabolism slows down with age. Metabolism is essentially the process your body performs to burn calories. Thus, when it slows down, so does your body’s ability to use as many calories as it once did and the unused calories turn into extra pounds. So, take a closer look at your calorie intake to make sure you’re not giving your body more calories than it can burn.

And remember, there is a plethora of research suggesting that regular physical activity can make a very positive contribution to your good health, but many over 65 don’t realize that includes helping to boost your memory and prevent depression.

If you are ready to make some healthy changes to help slow weight gain as you age, then consider incorporating these tips into your lifestyle:

  • Eat at least three times per day.
  • Get plenty of fiber, like leafy green vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Drink plenty of water and add weight lifting to your exercise routine.
  • Dine on lean meats like chicken, turkey, or fish as your main protein.
  • Adjust your dairy with low-fat, non-fat cheese, and skim or 1% milk.

 6. Talk to Your Doctor

Managing your medical care along with your doctor, can be valuable for addressing issues that affect memory.  Staying on top of medical issue from hypertension and diabetes to hearing or vision loss, can make a tremendous difference in your ability to keep your brain healthy.

Additionally, medications may be making it harder for you to remember, so be sure to talk with your doctor if you have medication concerns. Remember to ask if it could be necessary to make adjustments.

As mentioned previously, remember that while nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night, if you find that it’s happening to you more often, contact your doctor. Identifying and treating any underlying causes can help you get the sleep you deserve.

It’s also a good idea to talk with your doctor about what a good exercise routine for you would consist of before you start any exercise program because your doctor can factor in the health-related issues you need to consider as you getting started. Your doctor or a dietitian can also help you understand how many calories you need to maintain your ideal weight.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, women over age 50 who are inactive should get about 1,600 calories each day, and men over 50 who are not very active, should get about 2,000.

 7. Playing Games

Playing games that are timed, forces us to pay attention, work fast, and think. As such, almost any game is good for the brain! People who read, write, and engage in other mentally stimulating activities preserve memories at a rate at least 32 percent higher than those who don’t. People who are considered readers and writers are more likely to avoid dementia. That’s according to a study released recently, which also suggests exercising the brain with mentally stimulating tasks is especially helpful as you age. This is especially true, if you have done so all your life.  But regardless of age, mental stimulation helps the brain function at a higher level.

According to the study’s lead author, Robert S. Wilson, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, “Cognitively stimulating activity at any point in the life span appears to be related to better cognitive health in old age.” The Rush study sample of 294 people was tested for memory and thinking every year for a period of six years until they died, at an average age of 89. They also responded to a questionnaire that asked whether they read books, wrote, and/or participated in other mentally stimulating activities during childhood, adolescence, middle age, and at their current age.

Researchers discovered that people who took part in mentally stimulating activities both early and late in life had a slower rate of memory decline compared to those who did not participate in such activities across their lifetime.  After participants passed away, their brains were examined during autopsy for evidence of physical signs of dementia. “We controlled for level of brain pathology,” said Wilson. “The results prove that cognitive activity has a relationship with late-life cognitive decline that is independent of dementia-related brain pathology.”

Ultimately, the researchers found that the rate of decline was reduced by 32 percent in people with frequent mental activity in late life, compared to people with average mental activity, while the rate of decline of those with infrequent mental activity was 48 percent faster than for those with average activity. “Because the brain is a plastic organ, with use being key to maintaining structure and function, staying mentally active throughout life is important,” said Gail Saltz, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and the author of Becoming Real: Defeating the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back. “In other words, ‘use it or lose it.'”

In addition to reading, writing, and puzzles, learning languages and musical instruments also keep the brain flexible.  Keeping the mind engaged is key.  Doing things you enjoy, but in different ways, can also help.  So things like Sudoku, crosswords, and jigsaw puzzles are all great.

 8. Use Memory Tools

The use of task-specific memory strategies is known to improve recall.  Learn simple strategies such as making a connection between something you are learning and something you already know using a hint or a trick.  Don’t think that using date books and “to do” lists are cheating. In fact, they’re great tools for keeping track of things we don’t need to memorize. Keep in mind that reading benefits your mind and memory in ways that watching television doesn’t. The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging found that reading books could lead to a 50 percent decrease in your chances of developing dementia. Try to open a book for at least half an hour every day and if you find it impossible to read for long periods of time, just spread it out over the day or try reading a book of short stories.

If you live near a college, university, community college or adult education center, check out your options are for taking classes.  Sitting in a classroom can be a fantastic way to learn and test your mind, but it can also make you feel ten or more years younger.  Many colleges also offer scholarships, tuition waivers, or other discounts for seniors.

 9. Lifetime Learning

Keep learning new things.

Research over the past 20 years has led to the understanding that our brains can rewire themselves.  When exposed to new and challenging activities the brain can form new connections between neurons and support the new cells that are formed by exercising.  Try to engage in things that require creative thinking, social contact and some positive stress.

Maybe you’ve always thought about joining a theatre, learning to speak a new language, or you have wanted to learn to play a musical instrument. Some studies say that by learning and staying engaged, we can protect our brains by a large margin.  Learning in a group forces us to socialize which helps our overall mood and emotional well-being and that can be important to better brain health.

Mental engagement has been consistently linked with a decreased risk of a decline in thinking skills; so all types of brain training can help slow memory loss and mental decline.  Some studies have shown brain training can have other long-lasting positive effects, a study called ACTIVE, the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly Study. The study involved 2,802 adults aged 65 and older. Participants attended up to 10 brain-training sessions over a five to six week period. The sessions included training in strategies for:

  • Memory
  • Reasoning
  • Speed of processing information

People who took the training sessions showed improvements in those areas and the improvements lasted for at least five years.  Not only this, but this translated into improvements in their everyday lives, such as the ability to manage money and do housework more efficiently. The bottom-line is that people who are mentally active may spend a shorter part of their lives in a state of decline.

By keeping your brain active with brain exercises and other engagement, you may help build up a reserve of brain cells and connections. You might even grow new brain cells. This is one explanation for the link between Alzheimer’s and lowered levels of education. Experts think that extra stimulation from education may protect the brain by strengthening brain cell connections.

Learning something new makes new brain cells grow. You could even try something as simple as occasionally eating with your non-dominant hand, playing board games with your kids or grandkids, or getting your friends together for a weekly game of cards.  Social connections also help your brain.

Simply surfing the Internet may also be a great way to “stretch” your brain into new territory.  By using MRI scans, researchers have seen this activity trigger parts of the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning. Of course, neither education nor brain exercises provide an insurance policy against Alzheimer’s. But they may help delay the onset of symptoms, prolonging a higher quality of life.

Conversely, new research has shown that stress and depression may cause some forms of memory loss.  Other studies show that prolonged depression or stress leads to elevated levels of cortisol, a “stress” hormone produced by the adrenal glands. This in turn appears to shrink or cause atrophy to the hippocampus, the sea-horse shaped part of the brain associated with many kinds of memory and learning. This research is important because it suggests that not all memory loss is an inevitable.

While cortisol levels normally fluctuate over the course of a day and night, they often soar when a person is faced with a stressful situation and studies have shown that this affects memory.  For example, researchers reported in the April 2000 issue of Nature Neuroscience that people taking cortisone pills were not as good at remembering a list of words as people taking placebo pills.

Similarly, many people depression appears to cause similar damage; their cortisol levels remain slightly elevated as long as they are depressed. This moderate but constant drip-drip of the cortisol faucet appears to wear down the hippocampus.

In a review of several long-term studies published in the October 1999 issue of Reviews in the Neurosciences, Lupien concluded that this process is particularly damaging to the elderly and the research is showing that when depression is treated, cognitive function, including memory improves.

 10. Stay Social

Family, friends, conversation, staying connected to the community, and volunteering to help others keeps you engaged in a healthy manner which in turn can help to keep your brain healthy too. If you doubt the power of staying connected, consider this: experts now believe that socializing, like other forms of mental exercise, may build a cognitive reserve. Because in essence, it’s a reservoir of brain function you draw from if when other areas of your brain begin to decline.

“When you interact with other people, it’s likely that structures in the frontal lobe that are responsible for ‘executive functions’ like planning, decision making, and response control get fired up,” explains Oscar Ybarra, PhD, associate psychology professor at the University of Michigan. Regular socializing also keeps your brain sharp by reducing cortisol, the destructive stress hormone.

So, staying socially connected matters because research has clearly shown that social isolation is a risk factor for developing dementia.  Duke researcher and author of the book Keep Your Brain Alive, Lawrence Katz says that there is evidence that people are the most unpredictable things you can encounter, which is probably one reason that social contact is good for brain health.

One of the challenges can be keeping your spirits up so that you want to keep engaging in cognitively enhancing activities. The trick is to find activities that inspire you such as learning the tango or ballroom dance sequences. You can even begin listening to classical music, start to build something, or you can find inspiration participating in a discussion group where people share ideas such as a book club, a public policy, or advocacy group. Gathering with a group of friends on a regular basis is not only fun but can help your brain stay sharp. Research published in the May 2012 journal of Experimental Gerontology shows that social relationships can heal aging brains and keep them young.

So, consider hosting a weekly lunch for friends or volunteering at a charity and if you need even more encouragement remember people who sustain close friendships and continue to socialize live longer than people who become isolated, according to the Yale Medical Center.

The key to maintaining your brain’s health is engagement. Through mental, physical, and social activity your brain will stay busy. Developing a routine combining the three can put you at a lower risk for disease and keep your mind sharp as you get older.

 11. Be Positive

Remember, you are what you think. If you think you can… you will.  Try to remember that you will remember better.  Continuing to reinforce this type of positive message to yourself daily can become very powerful.

Experts know that positive emotions have a beneficial effect on your ability to process information and are linked to better brain health over the long term.  In 2007, one study found that people who frequently experience positive emotions were 60% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, while another found that older adults with lower levels of chronic stress scored better on memory tests.

Think about a time in your life when you were completely happy.  Rehearse the scene as though you were reliving it, complete with the dialogue, sights, smells, and feelings.

Keep stress under control. Stress hormones that are secreted during the “fight or flight” response are designed to give a fast burst of energy that benefits us in the short run, but causes damage in the long run.  In a nut shell, stress is toxic to our brain cells.

Stress that comes from upsetting situations, and depression can keep you from sleeping at night and are unhealthy for brain function.  Not surprisingly, a study on aging found that people who have healthy brains are the type that can let things go.

So, try not to hold onto bad feelings or anxiety.  Remember… rule number one is don’t sweat the small stuff… and rule number two is… it’s all small stuff.

 12. Meditate

Meditation can allow your brain to rest.  It  also reduces stress, allows for positive visualization, and creates a healthy connection between your mind and your body.  If you don’t think that meditating is for you, even taking a few minutes out of your day to stare into space or to close your eyes can be helpful to your brain.

But, we are creatures of habit and tend to engage in the same activities and behavior patterns even though our brains “prefer” novelty and unexpected events.  So, why not try meditation for the simple reason that you haven’t before.  Try lying on your back on a carpeted floor. Then set a timer for five minutes at first, then you can go longer. Begin by closing your eyes and concentrating only on your breathing. Push all other thoughts out of your mind.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, thinking of nothing but your breathing.  If you’ve never meditated before, you’ll be surprised at how difficult it is to do for five straight minutes, but keep trying and try every day. Your goal is to be able to concentrate on your breathing and nothing else for 15 minutes straight.  If you doze off it’s alright, let yourself doze off during your lunch break: napping for as little as 6 minutes can improve your memory, according to a study done by German researchers.  Over the course of 60 minutes, three groups of volunteers stayed awake for the entire hour, got in just 6 minutes of sleep or took a 30- to 45-minute nap. On a word recall test afterward, all of those who slept outperformed those who didn’t but surprisingly, those who took a 6-minute nap did just as well on the memory exam as those who snoozed longer.

 13. Keep Working

If you have a job you enjoy, keep it.  For many seniors, staying professionally engaged leads to a better sense of well-being, but there are other more tangible reasons to stay on the job longer.

Job satisfaction increases with age.  90% of workers age 60 to 64 agree or strongly agree that they enjoy going to work, compared with 95% of workers 65 to 69 and 97% of workers age 70 and older, according to the Retirement Project of the Urban Institute. Stress levels also drop on the job as we get older.  About one of three workers age 70 and older agree or strongly agree their jobs involve a lot of stress, compared with more than half of workers age 60 to 64.

Another big advantage to working longer is financial stability.  The financial benefits of delaying your Social Security are significant.  An analysis by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that nearly half of retirees who filed for Social Security before their 63rd birthday passed up 25% to 33% in additional inflation-adjusted benefits that would have been available if they had waited until full retirement age.

 14. Closing Thoughts

The average age of retirement is 64 for men and 62 for women according to an analysis of Census data by the Center for Retirement Research.  Census data also show the number of Americans living to age 90 or beyond has tripled in the past three decades to almost 2 million. This is likely to quadruple by 2050.

Unlike any generations before us, seniors today who retire at 65 may very well spend 30 or more years in retirement. This is enough time for a second career. According to Betty Friedan, one of the founders of the feminist movement and someone who continued to inspire women throughout her life wrote about her experiences with aging in “The Fountain of Age.” In the quote below, Friedan captures the concept of successful aging wonderfully, reminding us that it’s time that we redefine later life as a time of growth instead of inevitable decline:

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” 

Betty Friedan (1921-2006)

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