5 hobbies and habits to keep your mind sharp in later life


Older woman gardening

One of the challenges you’ll likely face as you get older is a decline in your cognitive function. According to Forbes, a study that tracked 3,500 participants before and after retirement found that “all domains of cognition declined over some time”, and verbal memory declined 38% faster after retirement. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of fantastic activities that can do wonders for your cognitive function. 

For instance, according to a study reported by the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, those who completed word or number puzzles at least once a month showed a significantly greater performance across all cognitive domains compared to those who never puzzled. 

Though, puzzling isn’t the only brilliant activity that’s great for your cognition. Continue reading to discover five hobbies and habits that could keep your mind fit in later life. 

1. Start exercising more

Exercise is a fantastic way to keep your mind sharp as you start to get older. Research from Harvard Medical School states that exercise boosts your memory and thinking skills, two facilities that can slip in later life. Better yet, regular exercise can even help reduce the risks of certain diseases, such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Many types of cancer
  • Dementia

This doesn’t mean you need to take up a physically-intensive sport – you could always try walking or another relatively relaxed sport, such as tennis, bowls, or swimming. 

You could even join a sports social club and use your exercise time to socialise with others. Or, if you’d prefer some well-deserved peace and quiet, you could always take up golf – it isn’t always a “good walk ruined”, after all. 

2. Stay in contact with friends and family

It’s remarkably easy to become isolated and lonely as you get older. In fact, the NHS reports that more than 2 million people over 75 in England live alone, and more than a million say they go more than a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. 

This is why you should habitually stay in touch with your loved ones later in life. It may be worth making an effort to call and catch up with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, for example. 

Simply talking with someone can help you forge meaningful connections while simultaneously exercising your mind. Even small talk can boost the production of feel-good endorphins and dopamine in the brain. 

You could try joining a social or lunch club if you don’t have anyone to talk to during retirement. Or, interestingly, AgeUK has a telephone friendship service where you can speak to someone from the comfort of your own home. 

3. Start puzzling

Puzzles are another brilliant way to stay mentally fit in later life. According to ITV News, over-50s who regularly attempt puzzles such as a crossword or sudoku have better brain function. 

The study, which examined more than 19,000 participants, found that those who engaged in puzzles regularly had the brain function equivalent to someone 10 years younger. 

Puzzling could improve your memory, reduce stress, and even increase your attention to detail with enough practice.  

If you’re not a fan of word or number puzzles, you can always try your hand at a jigsaw, which exercises the part of your brain that handles spatial relations, colours and patterns, or memory puzzles such as a Rubik’s cube. 

4. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep

A lack of sleep can often affect your cognitive function, especially your memory. 

Indeed, WebMD states that sleep deprivation impairs memory, slows down your thought process, and puts you at a greater risk of depression. 

It’s not unusual for your sleep cycles to change as you get older – you may have a less structured sleeping and waking schedule, or social isolation and the loss of independence could cause stress and anxiety, which often lead to sleeping problems. 

There are several ways that you can try and improve your sleep. For example, you could avoid caffeine later in the day, and stay away from screens at least an hour before you head to bed, as the brightness can affect melatonin production, the chemical necessary to help you fall asleep. 

5. Get out in the garden

Gardening is a fantastic hobby for all, but it is especially beneficial in later life. This is because it doesn’t take much physical effort while keeping you active, and encourages you to get outside for some fresh air and sunlight.

This can help enhance mental stimulation and keep your mind active, as gardening typically requires planning, problem solving, and learning new skills, all of which help create new neural pathways. Learning new things can even reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. 

It can also strengthen your hands and counter rigidity and loss of coordination. And, of course, with all the fruit and vegetables you’ll be growing, gardening could even encourage you to stick to a healthier diet. 

Better yet, you don’t even need to travel far to garden usually. You can do it from the comfort of your own garden, or an allotment or gardening club at a retirement village if you don’t have your own green space. 

Get in touch

When you’re enjoying your later years, the last thing you want to be worrying about is your financial situation. 

Please contact us via email at info@investmentsense.co.uk or call 0115 933 8433 to find out how we could help you manage your finances.