Once we give up work, it's more important than ever to find ways to keep our minds active.  The simple fact is that, as we age, our intellectual faculties often slip a little. Exercising your brain doesn't have to be all crosswords and sudoku though.

In this video we meet Linda and John Foskett of Surrey Hills Dance Centre and members of their dance classes who use ballroom dancing to keep their bodies, minds and social calendars busy. 

How can I keep my mind active in old age?

It’s not easy slowing down. We often spend our lives rushing, so when retirement beckons it can be a hard adjustment to make. While you can fill your days with all sorts of activities, it’s important to keep those little grey cells busy too. Anything you can do to stay mentally active will promote your mental wellness and help your whole sense of well-being in retirement.

Stay connected

It can be surprising how much you might miss your colleagues. Stay social by regularly planning to see a friend or family member. Or make new connections by joining a group or volunteering for a local charity.

Exercise your brain

The chances are you’ll be spending more time sitting down as you get older. This doesn’t mean you can’t exercise your brain at the same time. Switch off the television and pick up a crossword or Sudoku puzzle for instance – there’s nothing wrong with taking it easy physically, but still keep your mind as active as possible. You could even go online and dip into the world of brain training games.

Identify symptoms of stress

Retirement comes with a huge amount of change. Whether it’s leaving our jobs or moving to a new area, these changes often bring a certain amount of stress with them. There are many ways to relieve stress, including:

  • making some time for yourself where you focus on things that make you feel happy and positive
  • avoiding unhealthy habits such as drinking too much coffee, smoking or drinking excess alcohol
  • trying to focus on the positive things in life and the things that you can change – not those that are negative or that you can’t change.

One of the reasons we’re so keen to help people plan for their finances in retirement is that a well organised budget and a secure income will definitely help reduce your concerns or stresses. One of the biggest challenges in retirement is being able to live on a budget. Find out more about managing your money in retirement.

Eat well

Many people say we are what we eat and this holds true for our brains as much as anything else. Your brain needs a mixture of essential nutrients to stay healthy and functioning, so a diet that’s good for you physically is also good for your mental health and wellbeing. In essence, try to:

  • limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine and high sugar drinks and foods
  • drink plenty of water
  • eat a range of fruit and vegetables
  • eat oily fish (ideally high in omega 3)
  • eat foods with some fibre, such as cereals, nuts, pulses and seeds.

Finally, if you do feel tired, concerned or stressed, it is a good idea to share those moments with a friend, if not with your GP. A family doctor will be happy to talk to you about ways to identify and manage stress more effectively.