Author Topic: Retirement and cognitive decline  (Read 3768 times)

Sun Hat

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Retirement and cognitive decline
« on: July 07, 2019, 06:59:55 AM »
Another article suggesting the merit of retiring to something, rather than just retiring to lie in bed all day.

https://ideas.ted.com/think-retirement-is-smooth-sailing-a-look-at-its-potential-effects-on-the-brain/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

My personal experience with retirement has been that I feel great now that I've built a routine that is meaningful to me. However, I don't have an iota of regret taking a good, long decompression period right after FIRE. Cognitive decline or no, it can feel goooood to linger over coffee, wiggling one's toes and musing about what to do that day.

Malkynn

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2019, 07:07:49 AM »
I find that excessive stress, lack of sleep and exercise, and working too many hours to be far worse for cognitive decline over time than having too little to do.

I've always worked with a lot of seniors, and I think these articles get things a little backwards.

It's the people who burnt out on their careers who have a hard time staying mentally and physically active in their retirements because there just isn't enough left to start living a rich life. Their decompression needs are intense, and their adaptations to living a healthy life are atrophied.

Someone who has maintained a balanced and healthy life with a rich range of physical and mental activities throughout their career isn't about to slump into inactivity when they retire, even if they need some decompression first.

The problem isn't so much retirement, the problem is the state that the person's career left them in when they retire from it.

For me, it's not so much a question of what will I do when I retire, it's what should I do *now* to live a full and rich life that I can continue on and expand when paid work is no longer the main consumer of my time and energy?

Linea_Norway

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2019, 07:26:12 AM »
One and a half year ago I had symptoms of dementia: not being able to remember words in every sentence I tried to speak, not being able to remember a serie of more than 5 numbers, and generally forgetting everything. It was due to heavy stress in my life, both at work and privately. Since the stress went down, the symptoms went away. So I agree with the previous post that dementia is very much stress related.

But with that said, I have seen my MIL becoming dement and she was early retired when that happened. She hadn't worked since the age of 50 and started the first symptoms between 60-65. She still used to be on a medical board to judge wrong treatment and she had to cancel that because she noticed she was becoming less sharp. During her FIRE, she did lots of things like knitting, sewing, painting wool with mushrooms, etc. But she was not very active and was also a heavy smoker. She did not have a good social life after relocating for FIRE and I think she missed that.
I don't know what caused her brain disfunction, but maybe the unhealthy lifestyle played a role. Her brother and sister who were equally unhealthy also got it.

freya

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2019, 09:37:41 AM »
I find that excessive stress, lack of sleep and exercise, and working too many hours to be far worse for cognitive decline over time than having too little to do.

(snip)

The problem isn't so much retirement, the problem is the state that the person's career left them in when they retire from it.

Thank you for this!!!

Pure and simple, Nature has a time limit that we have to respect.  (Yes, dementia is real - sometimes it can be mimicked by stress and depression, but unfortunately most people are not that lucky.)

The idea that is supposed to be embedded in our psyche is to work in a way that benefits society and especially the GDP until you become non-functional.  That's at the core of all the articles about retirement being bad for you.  To say that people decline after retirement, when they are pressured to keep working until they start to decline, is what I call circular reasoning of very small radius.  The beauty of mustachian-ism is that we've found a way to immunize against this mindset.

A Fella from Stella

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2019, 01:35:02 PM »
Book by an old professor of mine talked about this. Not only is there cognitive decline, but the at home spouse resents the retired one for hanging around, and they have less sex.

https://www.amazon.com/Retirement-Maze-Should-Before-Retire/dp/1442216190/ref=sr_1_1?hvadid=78134099394395&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&hvqmt=e&keywords=the+retirement+maze&qid=1564774439&s=gateway&sr=8-1

OtherJen

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2019, 05:50:53 PM »
My mom is in her late 60s and refuses to scale back from her overtime work schedule because she's afraid that if she stops, she'll develop dementia like her older sister. I'm afraid that if she doesn't slow down, she'll destroy her physical health by not sleeping enough and placing herself under heavy work stress.

My (retired) dad and I try to introduce her to non-work things because right now, she thinks that she doesn't have anything to retire to (although it is true that she's lost contact with her friends). My schedule allows me to do a considerable amount of volunteer work with mostly retired and very mentally sharp older women, and I think Mom would find some of it very enjoyable. So far, we've had no luck even getting her to take a week-long vacation in several years.

I think there's also some unresolved panic from her long layoff during the last recession. But at that time, she went back to school and completed a double associate's degree while on the dean's list. She also researched and taught herself landscaping and planted out the backyard every spring. I don't know why she thinks she'd sit around and atrophy, unless it's because she wears herself out so much during the week that she thinks her current need to decompress on weekends is her natural state. We have no idea how to get through to her.

Dicey

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2019, 10:02:43 AM »
My mom is in her late 60s and refuses to scale back from her overtime work schedule because she's afraid that if she stops, she'll develop dementia like her older sister. I'm afraid that if she doesn't slow down, she'll destroy her physical health by not sleeping enough and placing herself under heavy work stress.

My (retired) dad and I try to introduce her to non-work things because right now, she thinks that she doesn't have anything to retire to (although it is true that she's lost contact with her friends). My schedule allows me to do a considerable amount of volunteer work with mostly retired and very mentally sharp older women, and I think Mom would find some of it very enjoyable. So far, we've had no luck even getting her to take a week-long vacation in several years.

I think there's also some unresolved panic from her long layoff during the last recession. But at that time, she went back to school and completed a double associate's degree while on the dean's list. She also researched and taught herself landscaping and planted out the backyard every spring. I don't know why she thinks she'd sit around and atrophy, unless it's because she wears herself out so much during the week that she thinks her current need to decompress on weekends is her natural state. We have no idea how to get through to her.
Tough, but tender advice here. Please stop trying. If she retires and is not happy, it will be on you. Let her live her life as she pleases. It's hard, but it's almost always the right decision.

OtherJen

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2019, 11:50:26 AM »
My mom is in her late 60s and refuses to scale back from her overtime work schedule because she's afraid that if she stops, she'll develop dementia like her older sister. I'm afraid that if she doesn't slow down, she'll destroy her physical health by not sleeping enough and placing herself under heavy work stress.

My (retired) dad and I try to introduce her to non-work things because right now, she thinks that she doesn't have anything to retire to (although it is true that she's lost contact with her friends). My schedule allows me to do a considerable amount of volunteer work with mostly retired and very mentally sharp older women, and I think Mom would find some of it very enjoyable. So far, we've had no luck even getting her to take a week-long vacation in several years.

I think there's also some unresolved panic from her long layoff during the last recession. But at that time, she went back to school and completed a double associate's degree while on the dean's list. She also researched and taught herself landscaping and planted out the backyard every spring. I don't know why she thinks she'd sit around and atrophy, unless it's because she wears herself out so much during the week that she thinks her current need to decompress on weekends is her natural state. We have no idea how to get through to her.
Tough, but tender advice here. Please stop trying. If she retires and is not happy, it will be on you. Let her live her life as she pleases. It's hard, but it's almost always the right decision.

Thanks. I know you're right. It's so difficult, because she's spent the past 5 years complaining about her job and has been diagnosed with hypertension, borderline diabetes, and gallbladder disease since starting it. I suspect she might now also meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder. I have told her a few times before that I can't listen to the complaining anymore if she's not going to actually do something to change it. I never ask about her job anymore.

I had a lovely time with my dad yesterday. I need to focus on him more and we need to let my mom decide whether or not to work herself to death. I don't think there's anything to do except stop letting her vent the drama constantly. I think I needed to hear someone else say it so thank you.

KBecks

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2019, 05:28:14 AM »
The thing I want to prepare for is cognitive decline in financial matters.  So, I want to have a plan in place at our peak sharpness, and then stick to that plan in later years so that I don't cause myself troubles.

That said, I socialize with investors in their 70's and 80's who are very sharp and successful, indeed, so hopefully, practice and staying engaged helps things along.... (but I want to segment our investments so there are some fail-safes in place.  Not sure what that looks like yet.)


Dicey

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2019, 07:14:38 AM »
The thing I want to prepare for is cognitive decline in financial matters.  So, I want to have a plan in place at our peak sharpness, and then stick to that plan in later years so that I don't cause myself troubles.

That said, I socialize with investors in their 70's and 80's who are very sharp and successful, indeed, so hopefully, practice and staying engaged helps things along.... (but I want to segment our investments so there are some fail-safes in place.  Not sure what that looks like yet.)
Wow, I just realized that's part of why I still hang out here, six years post-FIRE. I really enjoy helping others reach their goals and learning from the financially savvy folks here.

My friend and former neighbor was a self-made dude. He was worried about his wife after he was gone. He wanted her to move their assets to a specific financial planner when he was gone. He and I did the research together. After he died, I strongly encouraged her to follow his wishes. She was reluctant, because moving money meant paying a bunch of taxes. She finally pulled the trigger and hasn't looked back since.  She's never had to worry about money and her investments have done very well. Even after taxes and fees, she's prospered, because left to her own devices, she probably would have pulled out of the market. She's 94 now and still sharp. I often thank her husband for making sure she never had to worry about money, even after he was gone. Sometimes a financial advisor is worth the money., provided it's not the Edward Jones type.

Aelias

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2019, 10:41:15 AM »
There was a terrific article in the Atlantic on professional decline in cognitively demanding jobs a few months back.  The author speaks primarily toward people at the tippity tops of their field (like Nobel Prize winners), but the logic would seem to apply to anyone who earns money primarily with their brain.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/07/work-peak-professional-decline/590650/

This strikes me as yet another reason to get FI as young as possible.  I would definitely be worried if I were in my 50s, not FI, and staring down the double barrel of potential cognitive decline and age discrimination. Best to acknowledge that those days are coming and get while the gettin' is good.

freya

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2019, 07:33:27 AM »
There was a terrific article in the Atlantic on professional decline in cognitively demanding jobs a few months back.  The author speaks primarily toward people at the tippity tops of their field (like Nobel Prize winners), but the logic would seem to apply to anyone who earns money primarily with their brain.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/07/work-peak-professional-decline/590650/

This strikes me as yet another reason to get FI as young as possible.  I would definitely be worried if I were in my 50s, not FI, and staring down the double barrel of potential cognitive decline and age discrimination. Best to acknowledge that those days are coming and get while the gettin' is good.

+1 in every respect.

I'm in academic medicine, and I am definitely seeing my own creative decline.  What's supposed to happen is that you switch from being the one coming up with great ideas to overseeing a lab full of eager young scientists who do that under your supervision.  My job has now become getting grants, managing finances, mentoring, and making sure everyone stays on track. 

Surprisingly, I've come to terms with this, and I'm instead paying more attention to life outside of work.  Friends, hobbies, neighbors/neighborhood issues etc.  It's much more fulfilling and pleasant than struggling to keep doing stuff I did effortlessly in my 20s and 30s.   Having an FI plan is what makes this possible - else I'd be too terrified of losing my position to stop struggling to keep up.

Cassie

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2019, 11:33:56 AM »
Jen, I retired at 58 and got bored. Volunteer work can be as bad as working except no pay. For the past 7 years I have been teaching a college class and doing a little consulting. Unfortunately, my class is ending in December and I am really mourning the loss.  Your mom knows whatís best for herself.

MarciaB

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2019, 09:01:49 AM »
Jen, I retired at 58 and got bored. Volunteer work can be as bad as working except no pay. For the past 7 years I have been teaching a college class and doing a little consulting. Unfortunately, my class is ending in December and I am really mourning the loss.  Your mom knows whatís best for herself.

Cassie thanks for saying this out loud. You and I have some things in common (age, volunteering, teaching coming to an end) and I'd be interested in hearing more about your experiences. Also how you are navigating things, what choices you are making, etc.

Cassie

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2019, 01:03:44 PM »
I have 3 graduate degrees all in different human services areas.  I tried to volunteer at a home for unwed mothers that the goal was to help them get diplomas and then a job track. I offered to provide free Vocational testing and career counseling as well as labor market research. I was told if I wanted to volunteer I should come to the orientation and do what they assigned me. I was offering a service worth 1k per client. I have a social work masterís and have tried to volunteer in that area. Mainly places just want you to do grunt work.  I did for awhile at a animal shelter but the head volunteer got to be a pain so I quit after 2 years.  I do some consulting now in my fields but not enough to keep me busy. My class ends in November and I love teaching. I looked into other online opportunities but the pay is so low itís not worth it. I am being paid well.

Trudie

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2019, 10:33:19 PM »
I find that excessive stress, lack of sleep and exercise, and working too many hours to be far worse for cognitive decline over time than having too little to do.

I've always worked with a lot of seniors, and I think these articles get things a little backwards.

It's the people who burnt out on their careers who have a hard time staying mentally and physically active in their retirements because there just isn't enough left to start living a rich life. Their decompression needs are intense, and their adaptations to living a healthy life are atrophied.

Someone who has maintained a balanced and healthy life with a rich range of physical and mental activities throughout their career isn't about to slump into inactivity when they retire, even if they need some decompression first.

The problem isn't so much retirement, the problem is the state that the person's career left them in when they retire from it.

For me, it's not so much a question of what will I do when I retire, it's what should I do *now* to live a full and rich life that I can continue on and expand when paid work is no longer the main consumer of my time and energy?

+1 in every respect

I think decompression takes longer than many realize.  After I quit it took me about a year to decompress.  I was helped immeasurably by moving after my husband quit.  I get nine hours of sleep a night and the occasional nap.  But self care has allowed my creative energies and curiosity to awaken.  The curiosity to learn new things and put yourself in new situations is a great antidote to cognitive decline.

bluebelle

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2019, 09:10:22 AM »
I have 3 graduate degrees all in different human services areas.  I tried to volunteer at a home for unwed mothers that the goal was to help them get diplomas and then a job track. I offered to provide free Vocational testing and career counseling as well as labor market research. I was told if I wanted to volunteer I should come to the orientation and do what they assigned me. I was offering a service worth 1k per client. I have a social work masterís and have tried to volunteer in that area. Mainly places just want you to do grunt work.  I did for awhile at a animal shelter but the head volunteer got to be a pain so I quit after 2 years.  I do some consulting now in my fields but not enough to keep me busy. My class ends in November and I love teaching. I looked into other online opportunities but the pay is so low itís not worth it. I am being paid well.
just curious - did you make the offer to the director of the home or the 'head volunteer'?  It seems so short-sighted, but sometimes that's the world we live in.  It would have been such a gift to those young women.

Cassie

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2019, 08:38:49 PM »
To the director of the house. A friend made a similar offer to another organization and was rejected.

freya

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #18 on: November 11, 2019, 07:53:14 AM »
Yet another study promoting the idea that one should avoid retiring:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191029131506.htm

Score another one for correlation not being the same as causality.  On reading this I realized that there's a strong selection bias at work:  the study compares pensioners in rural Chinese communities with wealthy areas that did not receive pension benefits.   I cannot think of a more ridiculous comparison to make.  Of course poor rural areas aren't going to do as well as wealthy urbanites...just for starters, the most intelligent and ambitious of the rural poor have tended to migrate to wealthy areas.

I wonder if there's a method to the madness.  The government wants you to work until you drop dead, for obvious reasons.  Otherwise it's kind of hard to explain why so many highly placed scientists seem not to understand basic logic.

DadJokes

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Re: Retirement and cognitive decline
« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2019, 07:39:07 AM »
Yet another study promoting the idea that one should avoid retiring:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191029131506.htm

Score another one for correlation not being the same as causality.  On reading this I realized that there's a strong selection bias at work:  the study compares pensioners in rural Chinese communities with wealthy areas that did not receive pension benefits.   I cannot think of a more ridiculous comparison to make.  Of course poor rural areas aren't going to do as well as wealthy urbanites...just for starters, the most intelligent and ambitious of the rural poor have tended to migrate to wealthy areas.

I wonder if there's a method to the madness.  The government wants you to work until you drop dead, for obvious reasons.  Otherwise it's kind of hard to explain why so many highly placed scientists seem not to understand basic logic.

Some ideas are so deeply held that they are difficult to let go of. People whose whole identities are tied to their career don't want to accept that it's possible to be something outside of your job.