A recent finding shows that the earlier you retire, the quicker your cognitive decline.
Balintfy: In 2011, the first wave of baby boomers is reaching the 65-year milestone. For many, thatís retirement age. Others may be planning their retirement or already retired. But an ongoing research study suggests retiring later may have benefits.
Suzman: Staying at work, keeping active, mentally active, helps keep one's cognition sharp.
Balintfy: Dr. Richard Suzman at the NIH explains that a series of studies on health and retirement around the world are showing a pattern.
Suzman: In countries where people retire early, there is a bigger drop in cognitive functioning between say age 55 and 64 than in countries where people can retire later and continue working to an older age.
Balintfy: Countries like France, Italy and Belgium originally conducted research to guide policy decisions on retirement. Dr. Suzman adds that there is more work to do on the recent findings.
Suzman: For example, if people retire and have, you know, very cognitively demanding hobbies or volunteer, will their cognition hold up better than if they're sitting watching TV and doing very little? We just don't know that.
Balintfy: Dr. Suzman agrees that it does make sense that the same way if muscles arenít used they atrophy or weaken; not using brain function may have a similar result.
Suzman: Other research suggests that, for example, doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku help one improve crosswords puzzles and Sudoku, but it doesnít generalize to other cognitive activities in everyday living.
Balintfy: Declining ability to perform cognitive activities, those functions that require brain power, are a concern as people age, as much as physical activities.
Suzman: I think when we think about disability, I think we've got to think about both physical disability and cognitive disability. That people need good cognition to carry out the activities of everyday living, making decisions, managing one's money, etc.
Balintfy: And Dr. Suzman points out, this is a growing concern as the population of baby boomers age and the proportion of people over 80 increases.
Suzman: And that population over age 80 is growing enormously.
Balintfy: Dr. Suzman adds that Alzheimerís disease and dementia have a very high prevalence in the population over age 80. For more information on aging and age-related research, visit www.nia.nih.gov. This is Joe Balintfy, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Joe Balintfy
Sound Bite: Dr. Richard Suzman
Topic: retirement, mental retirement, retire, retiring, age, retirement age, aging, baby boomer, work, cognition
Additional Info: NIA Division of Behavioral and Social Research (DBSR)