Retiring at This Age May Protect Brain Function

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Senior businesswoman in a meeting at work
Dragana Gordic /

Working a little later in life — to age 67 — may help reduce your risk of cognitive decline, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, say that rather than being something that increases cognitive function, working longer is related to a slower rate of cognitive decline and also appears to protect against cognitive impairment from some diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

The researchers say the protective effect appears to cut across gender, educational and occupational lines.

The findings are based on an analysis of data from the Health and Retirement Study, a long-term survey of Americans over age 50 that is conducted by the University of Michigan and supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration.

The Max Planck researchers looked at data on more than 20,000 Americans ages 55 to 75 who participated in the labor force at some point between 1996 and 2014.

Many high-income nations have pushed back the statutory retirement age, the researchers note. For example, in the U.S., the full retirement age for Social Security benefits has been raised from 65 to as high as 67, in the case of people born in 1960 or later.

Such changes may have unintended and beneficial consequences, the study authors write in the social science research journal SSM – Population Health:

“The clear implication is that more recent cohorts, who have an older statutory retirement age, may, indeed, enjoy an enduring protective effect of postponed retirement against cognitive decline.”

The findings echo those of a 2013 French study that looked at around a half-million self-employed workers in France and found a link between working later in life and a reduced risk of dementia.

Of course, it would be silly to stay in a job you don’t enjoy simply in hopes that doing so will help stave off dementia. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available for finding work that you want to do, rather than work you must do.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson recently discussed this topic in his podcast “The Pros and Cons of Working in Retirement.”

For more tips, check out “20 Great Part-Time Jobs for Retirees.”

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