When people think about retirement, some imagine lounging around, relaxing, and being able to enjoy simply doing nothing. In reality, though, doing nothing might do more harm than good. Studies show engaging in hobbies during retirement can keep your brain sharp, prevent mental decline, and ward off depression.

Stay Busy hobbies in retirement

Retirement can often lead to a major decrease in activity for a lot of people. When you leave the workplace to retire, you lose much of the mental and social interaction that characterized your every day life for years. For those who don’t take on any new activities or hobbies to fill the gap during the golden years, they may face quicker cognitive decline than those who are engaged in hobbies, according to research.

Researchers at Concordia University in Montreal found that hobbies such as reading, socializing, and traveling can boost mental health during retirement after studying the activities and mental conditions of 333 retirees over the course of 4 years.

Dr. Larry Baer, the clinical psychologist who led the study, explained, “Retirement usually occurs right around the time when normal age-related declines in cognitive function come to the fore. So it is important to understand what is happening to brainpower during this period and to identify risk factors for mental decline, as well as factors that will help protect against it.”

Ever Played the Piano?

Another study from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland shows that playing a musical instrument can help keep your brain sharp and can even slow, stop, or reverse cognitive decline.

Study participants who were musicians showed a greater ability to recognize and correct mistakes than those who were not musicians when given various tests. They also showed quicker response times without any losses of accuracy, giving weight to the claim that engaging your brain will help boost its ability.

Psychologist Dr Ines Jentzsch, who led the study, discussed the importance of music for the brain: “Musical activity long term care insurancecannot only immensely enrich our lives but the associated benefits for our physical and mental functioning could be even more far-reaching than proposed in our and previous research.”

So What?

These studies have great significance in the realm of retirement and long term care, as taking specific steps to reduce your risk factors of mental decline can seriously cut the risk that you will need long term care. Putting in the effort to engage in activities, whether you prefer reading, doing crossword puzzles, biking, or socializing with other people, can help keep you healthy for longer and give you a more fulfilling retirement.

Dementia is currently the number one reason that people need long term care, and recent studies have found that people who suffer from depression are twice as likely to develop cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  By taking up hobbies and keeping yourself engaged with various activities, you can better avoid the isolation and loneliness that too often leads to depression and cognitive decline.

Read about the link between depression and dementia or find out more about how to plan for retirement and long term care.