OK to slow down

IT may be our dream to work hard and retire early, but recent findings reveal that early retirement may go hand-in-hand with the onset of dementia.

The study was performed by analysing data from the Chinese Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey in China. It was actually evaluating the effect of a pension fund in rural China for those 60 years old and above.

The findings revealed that those who stopped working because they received the benefits had a decline in cognitive function. Significantly, there was a significant impact on a delay in recall, a factor widely considered a predictor of dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s disease.

From personal experience, I saw this with my mother, who after retirement, spent about five years doing absolutely nothing but read books while reclining on her bed. There was no external stimulus, whether from environment or socially.

The findings discussed above surmise that there is a possibility that receiving the benefits has a greater negative effect in mental fitness and social engagement, even though those who retired with benefits had better nutrition and sleep.

Wait, hold on! I am not saying that retirement benefits need to be taken away from seniors in our society. What I am saying, and a number of recent published articles support, is that retirees have to maintain mental and physical fitness so that one’s autumn years are healthy and comfortable, with a good quality of life.

Our autumn years are a bit like insurance: we need to invest in it now because it gets a little harder once we are retired.

A recent news article by a doctor states that “preventative steps for dementia include a healthy diet; physical exercise; monitoring diabetes, hypertension and obesity; practising cognitive training, and avoiding smoking, depression and social isolation”.

All these steps can be taken now. However, what I seem to notice is that people are working like crazy, with their eyes looking toward their golden age when they can “relax and do whatever” they want. Of course, earning a living isn’t all that easy.

But again, baby steps. Use the stairs, cut down your simple carbs, get enough sleep. Just a point to note, the build up of protein that causes Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, arises from lack of sleep.

Let me ask you: are you working hard now, thinking that if ever anything happens to you later in life, your insurance and your children will look after you? How sure are you that your insurance is enough for all eventualities and that your children will look after you? I have seen enough cases where the spouse of the offspring manages to manipulate things so that the parents are left high and dry, and I believe this is more prevalent than we’d like to admit.

Otherwise, privatised old folks homes wouldn’t be so prevalent; their “marketing officers” haunt the corridors of the geriatric wards of hospitals, passing pamphlets and flyers to patients they believe have no visitors.

I should know, considering that I found my mother in tears one day in hospital when I visited her. She was holding a flyer for an old folks home, believing nobody was ever going to take her home.

A friend of mine believes that he isn’t ever going to retire, just “slow down a bit”. I think this may be the same for me. Whatever it is, I realise I am ageing. It takes longer for me to heal, I get tired faster and it takes just one unhealthy meal for my trousers to feel tight. But if we are active, both in mind and body, and if we surround ourselves with good friends in our golden years (rather than fervently hoping our children will handle everything), I think the battle is won.

Daniel is enthusiastic about fitness, yoga and writing. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com