How to Stay Sharp as You Age, According to a 101-Year-Old Doctor

Go to work

Retirement is a life event that many people eagerly look forward to, but if you choose to step back from employment, it’s worth also taking steps to prioritise your brain health and mental agility. This is because studies have consistently shown a link between retirement and cognitive decline. After retiring, it may be worth spending some time freelancing or volunteering to keep your mind sharp and engaged.

Drink in moderation

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, drinking alcohol too regularly or in too high quantities can result in an increased risk of dementia. A 2022 study found that alcohol consumption above seven units per week was associated with high levels of iron in the brain, which in turn correlates with diminished cognitive function. So next time you go out to celebrate, make sure to drink responsibly.

Stay social

One of the best ways to keep your brain healthy and active in later life is to make time to see friends and family. Having an active social life is associated with better cognitive outcomes in areas like memory, not to mention better mental health. So whether it’s a walk in the park with the grandkids or dinner with pals, making time for community is hugely beneficial.

Eat like you’re in the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean diet consists of primarily vegetables, with a smattering of healthy fats like olive oil, and omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods like fish. This way of eating, when combined with lots of walking and low stress, is associated with better health outcomes across the board. Not only do people who eat this way often live longer, but they also have better mental agility in later life.

Read for fun

Reading for work is one thing, but if you want to unlock all the mental benefits of the printed page, you have to read for enjoyment too. Studies have shown a link between avid readers and low instances of dementia in later life, and reading has also been shown to boost social intelligence and memory, while lowering a person’s chance of developing brain lesions and tangles.

Keep an eye on your cholesterol

When you think of the impacts that high cholesterol has on your body, diminished brain health and function might not be the first place your mind goes. Nevertheless, high cholesterol and high blood pressure have both been known to increase the risk of heart disease and strokes, which in turn have been known to contribute to the development of conditions like dementia and severe memory loss.

Embrace new technology

Acquiring any kind of new skill in later life is good for your brain, but some may yield more mental benefits than others. Specifically, a 2021 meta-analysis of multiple studies showed that those who adapted to and began to use new technologies like smartphones and laptops were able to stave off or delay the negative cognitive changes associated with ageing.

Play brain games

Studies have been inconclusive as to whether playing phone games specifically targeted towards improving memory, reflexes and mental agility have been effective in decreasing instances of dementia or Alzheimer’s. However, spending time gaming more widely, whether that means brain training apps, video games or chess, has been shown to yield positive mental outcomes across the board, including improving the mental health of players.

Stay active in the bedroom

It’s often assumed that people’s romantic lives slow down in later life but, if the studies are anything to go by, this really shouldn’t be the case! A 2017 research paper centred on 50- to 83-year-olds concluded that those who experienced physical intimacy of the bedroom variety on a weekly basis had improved cognitive function over those who didn’t.

Learn an instrument

Learning an instrument as a child has been linked to improved cognitive function in old age but, if you never had the chance to get into music as a kid, it’s not too late! One study of people over 60 showed that learning the piano was associated with improved episodic memory and attention, even in those who had only been learning the skill for six weeks. So get learning!