Retirement Is One Of Life’s Major Transitions—Maintaining Cognitive Health Can Make It Easier

Humans are hardwired for objective. Whether it’s discovered by training, a job or contributing to the well-being of household and pals, the necessity to really feel like a productive, important member of a neighborhood is a pure a part of life. For many, this sense of success and belonging is formed by a profession—usually to the purpose that work turns into inextricably tied to an individual’s id and sense of self-worth. But what occurs after we retire? 

Research exhibits a connection between the early phases of retirement and cognitive decline, and quite a few research point out that retirement can exacerbate a slew of psychological well being challenges, together with nervousness and despair. However, inventive hobbies and different stimulating actions can accomplish the other impact, lowering threat of dementia as they assist preserve the thoughts sharp. Maintaining robust private and social connections makes a distinction, too.

To assist these on the point of this daunting shift, Forbes Health explored what tends to occur to an individual’s cognitive and psychological well being in early retirement—and the way retirees may keep away from the pitfalls that always accompany this transition. Yes, it’s attainable to know that elusive triad of success, happiness and contentment after a profession ends and to stave off psychological decline—it simply takes some preparation, dedication and maybe a recent perspective. 

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Use It or Lose It: Mental Acuity After Retirement

It’s not unusual for brand new retirees to really feel abruptly adrift. Without the grounding construction and social bonds of labor, retirement is usually a jarring season of life. In truth, in line with a June 2022 Forbes Health survey of greater than 1,000 latest retirees performed by OneBallot, 32% of respondents stated they wished they’d saved working longer of their careers. Another 32% admitted they didn’t really feel nicely ready for the day-to-day realities of retirement.

After strolling away from the built-in stimulation of labor (in addition to the monetary stability that comes with a gentle job), new retirees run the danger of expedited cognitive decline. A 2017 research that tracked a number of important cognitive features of practically 3,500 members earlier than and after retirement discovered “all domains of cognition declined over time.” What’s extra, verbal reminiscence particularly declined 38% quicker after retirement than earlier than retirement.

The mind is a “use it or lose it” sort of organ, in line with Patricia Heyn, founding director of the Center for Optimal Aging at Marymount University and Forbes Health Advisory Board member. Without a job or profession to give attention to, and and not using a day by day routine or scheduled occasions, it may be all too simple to let cognitive prowess wither. “Post-retirement is a very important stage of life,” says Heyn, including that spending later years extra meaningfully hinges on good habits inbuilt early retirement. “To live those 30 years [after retirement] with joy and dignity, it starts with a healthy transition after our careers,” she says.

And although retirement may really feel eons away, it could possibly be nearer than you suppose. In 2021 the common retirement age was 62, in line with Gallup’s annual financial system and private finance survey.  Meanwhile, Pew Research studies 50.3% of U.S. adults aged 55 and older had been out of the labor power attributable to retirement by the top of the third quarter of 2021. 

Average life expectancy within the U.S. is near 80 years, which leaves loads of time for most individuals to determine new routines, habits and rhythms after the shut of their careers. Thus, it’s important to maintain an open thoughts and take a look at new issues after retirement, in line with Linda Keilman, a gerontological nurse, affiliate professor and Forbes Health Advisory Board member. “Being flexible and willing to try new activities or adventures presents a sense of wonder in seeing or doing things not tried before,” she says. Any variety of hobbies or actions may help preserve your thoughts sharp, she provides. The vital factor is to  preserve attempting new issues till you discover one thing that makes you cheerful—and when that zeal fades, transfer on to a brand new passion. 

Of course, actions are only one a part of sustaining psychological acuity. Research reveals that along with collaborating in partaking actions, sure way of life adjustments or diversifications can help cognitive well being as we age as nicely, akin to prioritizing sleep, relationships and train whereas limiting alcohol and smoking. 

Fortunately, information reveals latest retirees appear to be doing a great job of holding at it, as 80% of survey respondents say they’re taking lively steps to take care of their cognitive well being. But dangers stay when these priorities fall by the wayside. 

Retirement and the Risk of Cognitive Decline 

The common individual’s psychological acuity—sharpness or potential to understand—tends to peak round age 30, in line with University of California San Francisco’s Memory and Aging Center. From that time ahead, most individuals expertise a delicate decline with age, usually marked by problem with reminiscence, multitasking and total motor abilities. Early retirement can speed up this downward trajectory—particularly for many who discovered deep which means of their careers, in line with Amanda Smith, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences on the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Forbes Health Advisory Board member.

“In my experience, the people who define themselves by their jobs and have few interests outside of work often struggle [in retirement] more than others, so it’s crucial for people to find other meaningful ways to feel important,” says Dr. Smith.

Retirees who fail to discover a wholesome post-career routine could discover some psychological schools slipping, although not each “senior moment” is trigger for alarm. For these involved about monitoring signs or attainable indicators of dementia or Alzheimer’s illness, control the next elements:

  • Getting misplaced in acquainted locations
  • Repetitive questioning
  • Odd or inappropriate behaviors
  • Forgetfulness of latest occasions
  • Repeated falls or lack of stability
  • Personality adjustments
  • Decline in planning and group skills
  • Changes in weight-reduction plan and consuming habits
  • Changes in hygiene
  • Increased apathy
  • Changes in language skills, together with comprehension

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Meanwhile, it’s attainable to take care of some management over how rapidly cognitive well being shifts. For occasion, analysis exhibits at the very least half of Alzheimer’s circumstances will be attributed to “modifiable” threat elements, akin to:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood stress
  • Midlife weight problems
  • Smoking
  • Little or no psychological exercise
  • Little or no bodily train

Of course, staying lively, linked and in sizzling pursuit of success are inside an individual’s management, too. But some elements, akin to geography and tradition, may be more durable for some retirees to beat. 

Going It Alone: A Uniquely American Problem

In many components of the world, it’s widespread for older folks to stay in shut proximity to—and sometimes below the identical roof with—relations and shut kin. In truth, Pew analysis means that dwelling with an prolonged family is the commonest kind of family association for older folks worldwide. 

Senior dwelling seems fairly totally different within the U.S. Another Pew research studies that older U.S. adults are way more prone to stay alone or with solely a partner or accomplice than prolonged household. What’s extra, older persons are extra prone to stay alone within the U.S. than anyplace else on the planet. 

For occasion, 50% of older adults within the Asia-Pacific area stay in an prolonged household family whereas solely 6% of older adults within the U.S. declare the identical association. Meanwhile, 27% of U.S. adults age 60 and over stay alone, in line with Pew’s analysis. 

This information highlights that whereas older U.S. adults could have loads of independence, such dwelling preparations go away many with out the security internet of getting family members shut by as they age. It additionally presents potential issues of isolation and loneliness, that are linked to cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s and a slew of different well being issues. 

Practical Ways to Stay Sharp After Retirement

Though it could be difficult—and even scary—to contemplate the potential of cognitive deterioration after retirement, there are methods to arrange and assist stop swift declines. 

Talk to Someone 

Sometimes even small conversations could make an enormous distinction. “Often people struggle in silence,” says Dr. Smith. “If people are hesitant to share their feelings with loved ones or they don’t have anyone they’re close with, speaking to a therapist can be very helpful.” In truth, cognitive behavioral remedy will be significantly efficient for individuals who could also be in want of steering however really feel uncomfortable talking with pals or household, she provides, as it may assist somebody rethink the best way they take a look at themselves.

Regardless of who you converse with or what you chat about, the vital factor is to attach on a private, emotional degree, says Heyn. Conversations can forge significant connectivity whereas concurrently giving the mind a wholesome exercise, she explains. Research exhibits that even “small talk” presents a large number of brain-enriching advantages. Chats have the ability to spice up the manufacturing of endorphins and dopamine, which may gas pleasure and peace of thoughts.

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Recapture Childhood Joy 

Retirement is a brand new part of life, and Heyn suggests taking a while to look backward with the intention to transfer ahead. Remember what moms usually inform their youngsters, she says: “Play, exercise, find groups, eat healthy and find social networks where you can meet people and not be alone.” She additionally emphasizes the necessity for motion, including that you just don’t want a fitness center or weights, however you “must stay active to maintain independence.”

Keilman echoes this recommendation: “Think like a kid again,” she says. “Laugh, play and have fun. Do things that bring you joy and happiness.”

Interestingly, 64% of survey respondents reported choosing up a brand new passion or attempting to study one thing new since retiring, which opens a world of playful potentialities. And play, it seems, is usually a highly effective power for good. Playful video games may appear frivolous, however they will enhance temper, improve socialization and even assist sharpen cognitive perform. Research exhibits video video games particularly can enhance reminiscence, and board video games are confirmed to assist preserve cognitive decline at bay.

activities

Maintain Your Brain 

We usually deal with our minds as an afterthought, however brains benefit high billing when it comes to physique upkeep. 

“No matter where you are in your life, maintaining brain health is job number one,” says Keilman. Staying social, getting loads of sleep, exercising and being aware of vitamin all play a task in mind well being, however making an attempt actions that power the thoughts to suppose in numerous methods helps as nicely. Keilman presents examples like jigsaw puzzles, phrase searches, crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, diamond portray, studying to play an instrument, studying a brand new language, dancing, singing, meditating and practising tai chi. Sharing abilities and educating a buddy or member of the family about an space of curiosity you take pleasure in is one other partaking choice.

You should work your mind identical to you train muscle groups, says Heyn, including that studying new info “builds new cells and tissues.” Socializing with new folks is nice for the mind, too, she says.

As for a wholesome, brain-bolstering weight-reduction plan, the National Institute on Aging recommends limiting sugar and salt whereas prioritizing fruit, greens, entire grains, fish and lean protein. Meanwhile, researchers say seven hours of sleep per evening is the magic quantity wanted to protect cognitive well being, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends logging 150 minutes of moderate-intensity train per week.

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Support Your Self-Worth 

The disabilities and wish for help as you age can put on on an individual’s sense of vanity, says Heyn. Her recommendation to carry and maintain it: Do actions that make you’re feeling good bodily and emotionally, akin to educating a swim class, mentoring a youthful individual or beginning a strolling membership.  

For those that derived a lot of their self-worth and id from their careers, sustaining post-retirement vanity could show difficult. This battle makes it much more important that latest retirees suppose proactively and positively about themselves and replicate upon accomplishments, in addition to discover new actions that bolster vanity, says Heyn.

To assist enhance a liked one’s vanity, ask for his or her opinions, steering, suggestions and recommendation on a large number of issues, huge or small. Tapping into somebody’s life expertise can usually be helpful for each events—you could end up coming away with useful insights.   

Give Back 

Volunteering is a good way to hold your objective and sense of which means all through your life, says Keilman, although simply 22% of survey respondents report specializing in volunteer actions since retiring.

Keilman suggests potentialities like delivering meals for Meals on Wheels, tutoring youngsters or serving as a foster grandparent. And whatever the volunteer alternatives you select, “smile, take yourself lightly and enjoy the simple things in life by just paying more attention to your environment,” she provides. 

Communities, faculties, nonprofits and different entities are sometimes open to receiving assist from retirees. “You could help with schools and in classrooms,” says Heyn. “You can help fight climate change by helping with community gardens and helping reduce waste. We’re lacking that presence, but [retirees] are lacking the support and community champions who can empower and mobilize them.” 

Those with extra restricted mobility can discover ample alternatives to assist, too, whether or not by digital tutoring or mentoring, supporting a political marketing campaign or fulfilling a vital enterprise perform of a most well-liked charitable group. Whatever exercise you select, information exhibits older volunteers can reap actual well being advantages (akin to decrease charges of despair and higher cognitive well being) from such involvement. 

If you’re undecided the place to start out, AmeriCorps presents a listing of volunteering concepts, and VolunteerMatch—a database that lists a variety of volunteer alternatives and potentialities—can present inspiration as nicely.

Prioritize Exercise 

When it involves cognitive well being, it’s no exaggeration that thoughts and physique are linked, and you’ll reap an abundance of advantages from holding your physique shifting. 

“The most overwhelming body of evidence points to aerobic exercise as the most helpful in preventing cognitive decline,” says Dr. Smith. “Not everyone has the physical ability to run on a treadmill or take an aerobics class, but people can do simple things like use foot pedals while they’re sitting and watching television or do a chair aerobics class on YouTube.”

The kind of train you do doesn’t need to be daunting, both. An exercise so simple as taking a stroll—particularly in nature—can work wonders in your thoughts and psychological state.

For those that may want a little bit of motivation to get shifting, Keilman suggests attempting a program like SilverSneakers or one other program that includes workouts designed by or for older adults with supportive instructors. She says some medical insurance plans (akin to Medicare) provide comparable applications as a protection profit.

According to survey outcomes, 49% of respondents have centered on health actions since retiring, akin to going to the fitness center, strolling or practising yoga. Meanwhile, 12% say they’ve began enjoying a sport like golf, tennis or pickleball, and 31% have taken to out of doors actions like climbing, fishing or bike using.

Create a Bucket List 

Everyone has at the very least one factor they’ve all the time needed to do or study. “So go out there and do things,” says Keilman. This alternative is likely one of the nice pleasures of dwelling, she provides. “We have another day to grow, learn and add a new skill or interest to our life story.”

Not positive the place to start out? “Find people or groups with common interests,” suggests Heyn. “You must be adventurous and take a leap toward what you’ve always dreamed of,” she provides.

While each bucket record seems totally different, some concepts could embody touring, making a donation, studying a brand new talent or language, rising a backyard, buying a “dream” merchandise (akin to a basic automobile) or maybe repairing a damaged relationship. No matter the dream, take strides (even when they’re small or incremental) towards carrying out what evokes, motivates or strikes you, says Heyn.

Stay Balanced 

Just as work-life stability is vital to follow throughout a profession, it’s equally vital to take care of stability in on a regular basis life throughout retirement. To set up wholesome post-career habits, Dr. Smith suggests getting common train, staying mentally and socially lively, consuming a wholesome Mediterranean-style weight-reduction plan, lowering stress by meditation and different means, prioritizing sleep and staying on high of medical considerations like diabetes and hypertension.

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Think About Easy Access

Even for those who’re in nice form proper now, it’s important to plan forward and contemplate a day when your mobility may decline, says Heyn. People ought to plan accordingly by contemplating elements, akin to walkability, lighting and proximity to important providers and relations, with regard to their dwelling area. 

“Consider the social determinants of health of where you live,” says Heyn, emphasizing the need of prioritizing entry to important, on a regular basis wants.

Even for those who’re within the early years of retirement, you could need to contemplate your proximity to relations, the grocery retailer, the pharmacy or maybe a particular restaurant you maintain pricey. 

Plan Robustly

While it’s actually not the one facet of retirement that deserves consideration, thorough monetary preparation is crucial. In truth, 36% of survey respondents listed monetary considerations as essentially the most tough a part of retirement to date, considerably outweighing the following commonest concern, which 14% cited as an absence of routine and/or day by day construction.

most difficult

The happiest people are often the ones who have started planning early for retirement, who worked with their partner or spouse to prepare and have learned skills, hobbies or interests that can occupy their time when they aren’t going to work every day,” says Keilman. 

However, don’t fret for those who really feel late to the retirement planning sport. For those that weren’t capable of plan for retirement early on, it’s by no means too late to start out—and there’s loads of assist obtainable. Banks, nonprofits and native getting older businesses can level you towards free or lowered price monetary planning providers, and the National Council on Aging hosts a website that lists greater than 2,500 advantages and sources to which many retirees could have entry. 

Other concepts to facilitate that post-career transition embody becoming a member of an current retirement help group or creating your individual, and getting concerned with a company like Encore.org or the Transition Network to start out writing your subsequent chapter.  

Anything from podcasting to pickleball to Pictionary may help you keep sharp. Whatever you select, decide to turning into a lifelong learner, explorer and doer to assist make retirement an satisfying expertise—and one the place your cognitive well being stays intact.

Where to Seek Help for Cognitive Health

If you watched your individual cognitive well being is slipping, Keilman suggests talking along with your major care supplier, who can ask evidence-based questions and consider your solutions for  clues as to how issues are working within the mind. 

“If memory loss is interfering with [your] daily life, you can get a referral to a neurologist who can provide a thorough assessment,” says Keilman. “Testing like an MRI of the brain with and without contrast gives pictures of the brain to see what’s happening. Lab work can determine if there are any reversible causes of memory loss, such as an undiagnosed thyroid condition or a vitamin deficiency.” 

From there, neuropsychological testing may help present a way of cognitive and emotional functioning not obtained by different diagnostic means. This kind of testing additionally helps medical doctors distinguish psychological or neurological circumstances that may have an effect on reminiscence, provides Keilman. 

Family historical past performs an vital function, too. If there’s a historical past of reminiscence loss or dementia within the household, that sample could possibly be at play, says Keilman. “However, testing and assessments must be performed to rule out reversible causes and organic or metabolic changes.”

Again, the sooner you search remedy and evaluation, the higher, stresses Keilman.

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How Family Members Can Support Recent Retirees

According to survey outcomes, 73% of respondents really feel nicely supported by household and pals since retirement. But what does that help entail, and the way can family members be extra supportive?

Family members and pals can play a key function in an individual’s transition to retirement, and approaching the state of affairs with empathy, endurance and understanding is crucial. “​Oftentimes, retirees are hesitant to ‘bother’ children or grandchildren because of busy work and school schedules,” says Dr. Smith, and this tendency can result in emotions of loneliness and isolation. “It’s important for younger family members to recognize this reluctance and reach out. Keeping retirees engaged, visiting them and including them in milestones or sporting events is often very meaningful,” she provides.

Loved ones who need to be supportive don’t have to go overboard with concepts or actions. Sometimes, simply being intentional about having conversations, connecting and discussing present occasions can do wonders, says Heyn, who additionally suggests educating retirees how you can use know-how, soliciting their recommendation, enjoying new video games with them and inspiring them to share tales from their youth. 

However, it’s very important to hunt out actions each events take pleasure in. ”Inter-generational connectivity is so vital, however you could discover ties that bind and customary pursuits,” says Heyn. 

Responding to Signs of Cognitive Decline

If you do suspect a retired liked one is struggling of their transition to retirement, don’t wait to behave—and you should definitely embody them within the dialog. “The first step would be to tell someone, be it a family member or their primary care doctor,” says Dr. Smith. 

Unfortunately, considerations can typically be ignored or ascribed as a traditional a part of getting older, she warns, encouraging folks to hunt assist in the event that they really feel one thing is fallacious or discover  indicators of cognitive decline, together with reminiscence loss, problem with language or fighting resolution making.

“Gently broach the subject [with your loved one] in a way that’s not overtly critical,” provides Dr. Smith. “Some people have probably already noticed [signs] themselves and will be grateful for the confirmation and support. Others will absolutely deny that anything is wrong; in those cases, you can sometimes get them to be assessed under the guise that it’s a ‘baseline’ or ‘prevention’ evaluation. If you see that they’re struggling with certain activities, offer to help them.”

Respect is essential right here as nicely, in line with Heyn, who additionally encourages youthful relations to behave ahead of later if they believe cognitive decline in a liked one. “Be observant in respectful ways,” she says. “And be aware of genetics and context. It could be another secondary condition, such as stress, depression, medication or lack of sleep.” 

If cognitive problem is chronically impacting your beloved’s day by day life, it’s time to contact knowledgeable, says Heyn. But earlier than doing so, carry it to their consideration in a loving and compassionate means first, even when it’s prone to be a tough dialog. 

Before beginning that dialog, you may also ask different caregivers or relations to substantiate your suspicions. If you do contemplate different opinions, Heyn says a geriatrician may help with a cognitive analysis. From there, you may search extra specialised remedy as wanted. 

“Just activate the process,” says Heyn. “You’ll end up in the right place.

How Society Can Better Support Recent Retirees

As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” however one thing comparable could possibly be stated for efficiently supporting the not too long ago retired. 

Employers usually give attention to serving to staff get monetary savings for retirement, however what about different facets of retirement preparation?  

“Offering counseling as people start to plan their retirement could help prevent that sudden feeling of being lost when one’s career ends and allow people to explore what types of activities might bring them fulfillment in their later years,” says Dr. Smith. Volunteer or mentorship alternatives will be useful for latest retirees, too, contemplating how an individual’s life expertise and knowledge can usually enrich the lives of others, she provides.

Dr. Smith additionally suggests employers additional assist their retirees by providing help at dwelling when essential. People ceaselessly need assistance at dwelling however can’t afford dwelling companion providers (which aren’t sometimes coated by conventional insurance coverage). Many seniors are on a restricted funds however are nicely above the edge the place they’d be capable of obtain such providers free of charge by authorities and nonprofit applications. 

Another hole employers may fill is to supply long-term care insurance coverage as a advantage of employment, provides Dr. Smith, which might assist staff afford extra intensive ranges of day by day care ought to they want it as they age. 

More communities, faculties, nonprofits and different entities may also profit from tapping into their native retiree expertise swimming pools. “They could help with schools and in classrooms,” says Heyn. “They can help fight climate change by helping with community gardens and helping reduce waste. We’re lacking that presence, but they’re lacking the support and community champions who can empower and mobilize them.” 

Companies and organizations hoping to achieve folks in early retirement shouldn’t await them to point out up organically. Instead, Heyn recommends corporations courtroom retirees politely, welcoming their suggestions, insights and expertise. “So many would welcome a challenge or task,” she provides. 

The Role of Education and Recognition in Uplifting Retirees

Spearheading incremental change when it comes to how we deal with retirees and older adults begins with training, which can require intentional shifts in training coverage, follow and curricula. 

“We should teach about normal aging starting in junior high school—around the same time kids receive sex education,” says Keilman. “We learn about maturing and having babies, but nothing about how we age.” Covering such subjects at an early age may assist “normalize” the notion of wholesome getting older, she says, whereas most individuals solely hear about getting older in “negative constructs.”

Enhancing societal help for retirees will be achieved by fundamental recognition as nicely. Just as youthful folks crave recognition, validation and respect in educational {and professional} settings, retirees want these issues, too. 

“Older adults have value and worth and make a contribution to life, and that includes improving quality of life for all of us,” says Keilman. It’s vital to acknowledge and respect that contribution, she provides. 

Happy, Healthy Living in Retirement and Beyond

There’s no foolproof system to discovering success at any stage in life, a lot much less as we age or navigate the uncertainty of probably jarring life occasions like retirement. But there are many causes to hope for shiny days forward. Nearly 40% of survey respondents say retirement has at the very least “somewhat positively” affected their cognitive well being to date, and none report retirement “very negatively” affecting their cognitive well being. 

What’s the key? Connectivity is probably among the finest defenses in opposition to cognitive decline, in line with Harvard University’s Study of Adult Development. This longitudinal research, which adopted two teams of males during the last 80 years, discovered shut relationships (greater than cash or fame) to be what retains folks blissful all through their lives. Close bonds defend folks from life’s difficulties and may help delay psychological and bodily decline, researchers discovered,including that relationships are stronger predictors of blissful lives than social class, intelligence or genetics.

They additional reported that these with robust social help are inclined to expertise much less psychological deterioration as they age. And, maybe most significantly, the researchers discovered that glorious relationships bolster our our bodies—and our brains. 

Aside from staying linked with household and pals, the Harvard research presents particular steering for maximizing wholesome psychological and bodily getting older, culled from greater than 80 years of lived expertise information and candid suggestions from research members. The tips embody pursuing and prioritizing your hobbies or passions, volunteering and constantly performing acts of kindness, spending time with blissful and supportive folks, and taking time to understand the great issues in your life.

Of course, there aren’t any ensures or surefire methods to beat back cognitive decline, whether or not in early retirement or another part of life. However, the notion of spending as a lot of your time as attainable doing what brings you pleasure—amongst folks and locations that additionally carry you pleasure—presents a fairly strong framework for a cheerful, wholesome life. Thankfully, that’s a mindset anybody can grasp and undertake at any time.

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Footnotes

Xue, B., Cadar, D., Fleischmann, M., Stansfeld, S., Carr, E., Kivimäki, M., McMunn, A., & Head, J. (2018). Effect of retirement on cognitive function: the Whitehall II cohort study. European journal of epidemiology, 33(10), 989–1001. ​​

U.S. Retirees’ Experience Differs From Nonretirees’ Outlook. Gallup. Accessed 6/6/2022.

Amid the pandemic, a rising share of older U.S. adults are now retired. Pew Research Center. Accessed 6/6/2022.

Older people are more likely to live alone in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world. Pew Research Center. Accessed 6/7/2022.

Study of Adult Development. Harvard University. Accessed 6/7/2022.

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