Deciding when to retire: the impact on mental agility and wellbeing

Retirement or not? The decision’s effects on cognitive functioning, well-being, and quality of life.

The Centre for Policy in Ageing has reported on a study published in the journal of Behavioural Sciences in September 2020 on the impact of retirement on overall wellbeing.

This study took place in early 2020 and looked at the effects on personal well-being of retirement and reported on the impact on quality of life of staying professionally active in late adulthood.  It also looked at how professional inactivity could change cognitive abilities.

The study sample was 262 elderly adults, 129 of whom were professionally active in that they voluntarily maintained their professional activity after the age of retirement and 133 of the sample were retired adults.

The groups were given a set of experimental tasks to measure basic cognitive resources.

The results of this relatively small sample showed that active elderly people performed better on cognitive tasks that assessed attention, memory, and problem solving abilities and also reported more satisfaction with life and their current work.

Years of inactivity were associated with lower cognitive performance. Mentally demanding jobs were significantly associated with memory performance, but not with attention and planning.

The study drew the conclusion that an involuntary separation from professional activity in the beginning of late adulthood may cause a deeper decline of cognitive functions, poorer adaptive adjustment to the aging process, and higher dissatisfaction with the period of life the individual is going through.

Of course maintaining cognitive function and associated wellbeing does not depend on remaining in work and it also depends on the type of work people do.  More important is staying active, engaging in activities that provide mental stimulation and keeping in touch with people and community.  This can be achieved in many ways and volunteering of course provides just such an example.

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