Don’t Retire-ReFire: How to Keep Your Mind Sharp

By Gail Supplee Tatum, Columnist, The Times

TatumHave you ever forgotten where you put your keys? Do you sometimes forget words or names? Do you feel like your brain is just getting duller? Have you ever felt like you have nothing to add to a conversation? Don’t panic! It’s part of the natural aging process.

However, there is growing evidence that tells us otherwise. We do possess the power and we do have the ability to keep our mind sharp, in spite of the number of birthday candles on our cake. So how do we improve our mental state so that these occurrences happen less frequently?

Above all, it is important to understand that our brain is the most important and powerful organ in our body and we need to pay attention to its health and well-being. It is our “Control Tower”.

Here are three essential suggestions as to how you can stimulate your brain power, every day, and be the best you can be.

  1. Keep working. Don’t let anyone tell you, you have to stop. You may not work as many hours, but just having a schedule, which I’ve pointed out in previous articles, keeps you sharp. Another way to keep working is to volunteer. That can be even more rewarding because, in volunteering, you would choose a place and task that is close to your heart and something that, maybe, you always wanted to do but couldn’t because of your demanding work schedule. Helping others takes the focus off of ourselves and, in helping others; it lifts our spirits with a deep sense of pride that we are contributing to society and humanity.
  2. Develop your cultural side by inviting different stimuli into your life. Join a Bridge Club, Mahjong Group or Book Club, to name a few. These types of games are not only good for your brain; they are also a source of socialization, which is enormously important in our ReFirement. Although many of us try to avoid exercise, like it’s a dirty word, but Harvard Studies show that regular exercise changes the brain. We must view exercise as another form of “food for the brain” and not as a drudgery. In our quiet moments, brain exercises, like, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, solitaire, jigsaw puzzles, knitting, building model ships can be peaceful and calming. Learn a new skill. Is there an instrument that you’ve always wanted to play? Now is the perfect time! Pay attention to your sensory experiences. Visit a flower garden or herb garden and learn to identify the flowers or herbs by how they smell, how they feel to the touch, what they look like and how they taste.
  3. Tap in to the intellectual side of yourself. Did you know that many State Colleges offer tuition waivers, full and/or partial, to Senior Citizens? What have you always wanted to learn but never had the time or the means to pursue? Now is your opportunity! The general requirement is that you have to be, at least, 60 years old, be retired and live in the State where your University of choice is. There also has to be space available in the classroom. You can google, “Can Seniors go to college for free” and several options will come up. One site gives you details, once you enter the State you live in. Those of us, who are local, will be pleased to know that West Chester University offers tuition waivers. Go to . Other ways to heighten your intellect is to read classics or books on topics that you’re interested in knowing more about. I suggest that, as you read, have a dictionary or your phone handy to look up definitions of words you may not know. It’s exciting to learn new words!

Mental stimulus is important from the time we are born. We must focus on using our brain and understand what happens if we don’t. Although the brain is an organ, the analogy of flexing it like a muscle, is more relatable. If we don’t use our muscles, they atrophy. That is exactly what happens when we shut down our mental capacity. It has been said over and over that we, as humans, only use a fraction of our brains. Make it a priority to keep yourself mentally stimulated. This has a different meaning for every individual, because we are just that, individuals, each put on this earth for a different reason, with different talents and skills. We all possess power and strength and mustn’t let anything get in the way of realizing our full potential.

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