Dementia Prevention

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There are now two reasons to postpone retirement.

The financial reason has been covered repeatedly in this blog: working longer increases a retiree’s savings and monthly Social Security income, while shortening the number of retirement years that their savings will have to fund.

If that doesn’t convince you, here’s the other reason: working longer may prevent dementia.

That’s the conclusion of a study on nearly 430,000 French retirees.  After analyzing their health and insurance records, the researcher determined that each additional year an older worker remained in the labor forced further reduced the risk of being diagnosed with various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

This research provides empirical support for the adage that intellectual stimulation can ward off dementia.  Sudoko and bridge are tossed around as examples.  But employment is shown in this study to provide the type of mental engagement that has been proved in prior medical studies to guard against developing dementia.

The results are “in line with the ‘use it or lose it’ hypothesis,” Carole Dufouil, a research director at INSERM in Bordeaux, explained in a statement for the Alzheimer’s Association’s conference in Boston.

Dufouil’s results remained strong even when she excluded those who developed dementia within five years of retiring and could be considered high-risk individuals.  Her analysis also controlled for various characteristics that might be associated with the onset of dementia, such as the retirees’ marriage status, sex, or the value of their pensions.

The study “highlights the importance of maintaining high levels of cognitive and social stimulation throughout work and retired life,” she said.

As workers age, they can begin to feel eager, even desperate, to make their exit.  Others may feel they’re ready if they’ve saved enough money for a comfortable retirement.

But it’s hard to argue with the implications of this research.