Udayavni Special

BRAIN MATTERS: Your Brain on Retirement!


Team Udayavani, Apr 25, 2018, 3:21 PM IST

In the last few years, I have seen a few of my acquaintances, who were hale and hearty, upon retiring from job developing serious health issues – getting bedridden or even expiring within a year.

This trend was very baffling to me and I was not able to understand what was going on in these people’s life post their retirement. People who were active or in good shape before their retirement were found to be suffering from Alzheimer or Parkinson’s attack, heart-related ailments and/or from a back/joint pains within few months of their retirement.

What is going on here? This question which was haunting me for a while led me to a book titled ‘The Brain: The Story of you’ by David Eagleman- an American writer and neuroscientist, teaching at Stanford University in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Sciences. In his book, David Eagleman shares details of a unique research project undertaken in the US covering more than 1100 nuns and priests to explore the effects of ageing on the brain- The Religious Orders Study. The main objective of this project was to study the risks of Alzheimer disease faced by nuns and priests in the age group of 65 and above.

The data collection for this project started in 1994 and so far, Dr David Bennett, the principal researcher and his team have collected over 350 brain tissue samples. He and his team were expecting to find a clear-cut link between mental processes and causes of diseases like Alzheimer and Parkinson stroke. But they found that despite full-blown Alzheimer, some of the nuns or priests did not experience any cognitive issues. These nuns and priests showed that though ageing cannot be stopped, it is possible to protect our brain from the onslaught of cognitive issues by keeping our brain fully engaged by pursuing activities like crosswords, reading, driving, walking, learning something new and taking up household tasks. They also showed the importance of social networking, interactions and engaging in some group-based physical activities. This research showed that negative factors like being alone and depression were leading to cognitive decline in aged people.  

Dr David Bennett opines that positive traits like conscientiousness, having goal or purpose in life, keeping oneself busy and having healthy social interactions helps to remain active as long as possible.

If I must sum up his observations, I would say that retirement is from the job and not for the brain.

Please remember to keep your brain busy, so that it can keep you busy!

– Prakash Prabhu
[ Mr.Prakash Prabhu works for The Manipal Group as a Senior HR Manager with over 15 years of corporate experience. He has been the lead writer and contributor to CHIRP magazine.(An intra-Manipal group monthly employee magazine) An avid reader who devours one book after another, Mr.Prabhu is also a certified handwriting analyst.]

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