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How to Stay Sharp in Retirement

Friday, March 17, 2023
Smiling retired man with laptop on a street working remotely in retirement

Are you worried about the mental decline in retirement? Fortunately, some simple habits can improve and rejuvenate mental powers. Our stay sharp guide is designed to help you keep your mind agile long into old age while enjoying a fulfilling retirement lifestyle.

As we grow older, we may find it difficult to remember or learn new things. It is natural to be concerned about changes in our cognitive powers and worry about mental decline.

Fortunately, it is possible to stay healthy, active, and sharp in retirement. Some simple habits, backed by science, can help retirees improve and rejuvenate their mental powers.

This stay sharp in retirement guide is designed to help you keep your mind agile while enjoying fulfilling retirement life.

A retired man running beside the sea maintaining his healthy retirement lifestyle

Choose a Lifestyle That Benefits the Brain 

Just like you need to build a strong foundation for a house, you need a good base for your brain. The brain works best when you give it: 

  • About 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
  • A healthy diet with lots of veggies and fruits, such as a Mediterranean-style diet.
  • About 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.
  • Good times with family and friends.
  • A positive attitude.
  • As many outings into nature as possible.

If you have not done it already, give yourself the gift of adopting a healthy lifestyle the day after your retirement party. The effort is worth it because your mind and body will reap benefits. Numerous studies have shown that good habits can prevent mental decline and help us stay sharp in retirement.

Be Confident

Don’t buy into stereotypes about a mental decline after retirement. Negativity can lead to hopelessness and decreased motivation.

People who believe they can improve their mental powers are more likely to take steps to do it. They have more success in maintaining or boosting their cognitive abilities. That is why confidence and a positive attitude toward growing older are so important.

Reinvent Yourself 

Retirement as a permanent holiday may sound alluring, but doing nothing can turn our brains into mush. It is much better to see retirement as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. A second career, a volunteer position, caring for grandchildren, or a hobby, can all provide a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose will help safeguard the brain.

Keep your brain working well after retirement by scheduling activities that more or less mirror your past work hours. Stay sharp by developing a meaningful life and have a reason to wake up in the morning.

A retired man looking at car engine with his grandchildren

Become a Life-Long Learner

Did you know that you can attend classes in many state-supported colleges and universities free of charge or at a reduced fee? To qualify, you need to be a specific age. Most set a threshold at 60 or 65. Some programs allow people as young as 55 to participate.

Life-long education, whether formal or not, is an excellent way to keep the brain sharp. Complex mental activity contributes to the production of new brain cells and is critical for brain health. Learning a new language, learning to play a musical instrument, and reading for pleasure (as opposed to skimming through information on the internet) are among the most beneficial mental activities.

Repeat, and Repeat Again

“Repetitio est mater studiorum”, said ancient Romans, and modern scientists agree. Repetition is the mother of learning.

To remember a crucial piece of information, make sure to hear it several times, or repeat it in your head. Your brain is more likely to retain what is repeated.

Studies have shown that the brain forms new pathways when something is repeated often. That way, you get two benefits. You remember important information, and you hone your brain too.

As an easy challenge, why not learn a short poem by heart or revisit that multiplication table? We now rely so much on our calculator that many have forgotten how much is 7 x 6.

Forget Multitasking 

Multitasking is a dubious skill. Only a tiny percentage of people can successfully perform several tasks simultaneously. As for the rest of us, the result is a horrible mess.  

Multitasking divides our attention and drains our mental energy. Many studies show that multitasking reduces efficiency, increases errors, and generates unnecessary frustrations.

Instead of trying to do two or more things at once, attend to one thing at a time and avoid distractions. You will do your brain a favor.

Stay Organized

You are more likely to get frustrated searching for things if your home is cluttered and disorganized. When everything is in its place, you don't need to waste mental energy remembering where you put your glasses or car keys.

When you clear your home of clutter and organize things nicely, you will be surprised to learn how this can also clear your mind.

A retired couple having a picnic outdoors, drinking wine, enjoying their time in retirement

Let in the Sunshine

Dim lighting can change brain structure and hurt our ability to learn and remember. Experts say that bright light boosts the alertness and performance of the brain, as well as our mood. 

It is, of course, best to enjoy the bright daylight whenever you can. Alternatively, use good lighting indoors during the day.

Walk Backward

One research claims that walking backward could improve your short-term memory, that is, the ability to recall things that happened recently. The research also found that people experienced a similar boost after merely imagining walking backward or watching a video in reverse. 

Nevertheless, walking backward has its benefits. It challenges your balance, stability, and coordination. It also challenges your brain, asking it to do something it is not used to doing,

Practice walking backward indoors or outdoors in a flat, open area. Carefully survey the path, look straight ahead, maintain a good posture, and walk in reverse, big toe first, rolling the foot from toes to the heel.


When you feel anxiety and stress building up, it is good to take a few minutes to relax. You can listen to your favorite music piece, walk in a park, meditate, or light a candle and watch the flame.

Relaxation is crucial for mental clarity. It helps us calm down and improves our concentration, memory, and decision-making.

Peaceful retired woman meditating outdoors on the beach

Play Mind Games

Does taking up word or number puzzles later in life benefit the brain?

Researchers do not have a clear answer. While some studies link solving crosswords and sudoku puzzles to a sharper mind, other studies say that a regular puzzle habit does not affect mental sharpness.

In any case, a crossword or sudoku puzzle is a pastime that can keep you entertained. And playing board games or chess is a great way to engage with others for enjoyment.

Check out AARP® Staying Sharp®

AARP® Staying Sharp® is an award-winning digital program with information on brain health. You will find exercise videos, recipes with healthy ingredients, mental challenges, articles, and more. Explore AARP® Staying Sharp and learn about healthy habits to help support brain health as we age.

Your AARP membership gives you access to:

  • Staying sharp challenges
  • Articles, videos, activities, and recipes
  • Guided meditations and videos
  • My Favorites for saved content
  • More than 25 AARP Staying Sharp fun games

For an additional one-time fee, you may also purchase the Cognitive Assessment, Lifestyle Check-Ins, and Additional Tests. Check AARP® Staying Sharp® and make the most of your AARP membership, or become a member.

A smiling retired man near a leafy plant in his garden

Meet AARP® Moving Services Powered by Shyft

Another excellent service that AARP members enjoy is AARP® Moving Services powered by Shyft, a moving platform designed especially for you. If you plan to move home after you retire, count on AARP® Moving Services powered by Shyft to organize your move door-to-door smoothly and worry-free.

Shyft is a fintech-powered marketplace that uses technology to make moving a stress-free experience. Shyft arranges for reliable and reputable third-party companies to provide moving services. The main benefits of entrusting your move to Shyft are:

  • You get a free moving checklist to help you keep things organized. 
  • You save time. Shyft will create your inventory virtually without ever entering your home.
  • You avoid the fuss. You don’t need to search for quotes from several moving companies. Shyft does that for you.
  • You save money. Your quoted price is guaranteed. On top of that, AARP members get a discount of up to $250.
  • You always have a living person to turn to. Shyft is available to you 24/7.

Download and print your free and handy Shyft moving checklist. Now you are ready to start ticking off item by item!

Next, download Shyft’s free and user-friendly moving app, called Shyft Next. Shyft Next is available for iPhone and Android devices.

Then schedule a video call with a Shyft representative. You can do that on AARP® Moving Services powered by Shyft website, or by calling Shyft at 1-888-501-3181.

The Shyft representative that you talk to will be your dedicated Move Coach. 

During the video call, you’ll show your Move Coach with your device’s camera what you want to take to your new home. The Shyft Move Coach will note all the items that need to be moved and advise you on approximate costs. The inventory list created during the video call is about 95% accurate. You can change it until you are satisfied.

When your list is complete, it goes to a secure Shyft platform, where vetted moving companies submit their offers. Shyft will send you at least three quotes so that you can choose the mover that suits you. As soon as you accept a quote, the price is locked and cannot be changed unless you add or remove items, alter the move distance, or fail to book your move before the quote expiry date.

Your Move Coach will oversee the entire process from start to finish. They will help you every single step of the way. No matter which company is handling your move, Shyft ensures the same quality standards for all.

With Shyft, AARP® members get up to a $250 discount for every move booked, no matter how many times you decide to move and where you decide to move to. 

You can learn more about AARP® Moving Services powered by Shyft on their website, or you can call them at 1-888-838-5981. 

Shyft is there for you seven days a week. Contact them if you have any concerns or questions. All your questions will be answered, and you will be looked after during the entire process of moving.  

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