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An Executive’s Guide to Keeping Your Mind Sharp As You Age

I know, it’s not something any of us want to admit, but as you get older…things change.

After 23 years of coaching executives, I’ve watched (and listened) as my clients’ experience changes in their energy levels, decreased motivation, intolerance to certain work dynamics, shifts in thinking, re-prioritization of values, and decreased cognitive abilities.

Believe me, I don’t love this topic either. I’m in my 50’s and, well, I don’t function the same way I did at 30 and 40.

While this is not a secret, it is a taboo subject at work because no one wants to experience ANYTHING that hinders his or her ability to do great work. For many of us, our job is a significant part of our identify. Our work matters to us. So, staying relevant, engaged, and able to perform is critical.

Included in this post are practical ideas to keep your mind sharp and your body prepared for the demands of work and your personal life. Some might feel like a reminder but some may be new ones to try.

Regardless, my goal is to keep you in the game and winning.

Typical, cognitive changes as you age are completely normal. This may include mild cognitive impairment, which is quite common in humans after midlife.

Usually this "dulling of the mind" starts around middle age. Since the average person lives to about 80 years old, this means that if you’re 40, you are middle age! Even if you are nowhere near 40 right now, this age comes sooner than you think because time flies fast while you’re busy living it.

Working on keeping your mind sharp as you age can and should start from a young age. The younger you start, the better.However, even if you’re over middle age right now, and even if you feel as if you have less mental dexterity than when you were younger, you can still implement what you will read in the pages that follow. If you do, you may avoid suffering too much decline, keeping your mind as sharp as possible and even improving where you can in the process.

The Importance of Keeping Your Mind Sharp as You Age

It’s normal to experience changes in your brain throughout your life. As you go through middle age and beyond, your brain will slowly shrink. Again, this is all completely normal and while it sounds frightening, you don’t have to be scared. With the right plan, you can—if you work on it—actually grow your brain even if it’s already started shrinking.

Keep Your Independence Longer

As long as you can take care of yourself, remember to pay your bills, turn off the stove, along with any similar tasks; you will be independent a lot longer than if you can’t do those things even now. Consistently working on improving your memory and brain function now (even if you currently have no mental or cognitive decline) will ensure that the latter is put off even longer.

Ward off Dementia

Even though a large percentage of people over 70 have some form of dementia; you can certainly lessen the effects by working on your mental and physical health now. Eating right, keeping your mind sharp by reading, new activities, and living an overall active life is your best defense against any illness and costs less than medical intervention in the long run.

Improve Your Memory

Remembering important daily tasks like taking your meds, family or personal responsibilities, or even as simply as remembering what day it is are all important factors in being able to live (and thrive) on your own. If you cannot remember what day it is, it’s hard to remember when your light bill is due or what you needed for dinner while grocery shopping. Don’t worry, though; even if you have a hard time remembering things now, you can learn methods to improve your memory and make it easier.

Experience Better Health in General

Taking care of your brain health will naturally evolve into creating a situation where your entire body is healthier. The main reason is that the same thing that keeps your brain healthy will maintain your general health. Eating right, drinking plenty of water, exercising, resting, and reducing stress are good for you all around.

Enjoy Your Retirement More

When you can be independent, remember your scheduled evening out with friends, and remember to pay your bills; you will obviously enjoy your retirement more. It's more pleasurable if you’re healthy and your mind is sharp. The likelihood of earning more money long-term, due to having a sharp mind, increases as well. You’ll also have a lot more fun because you will be free of other worries once you retire.

Keeping your mind sharp pays off in more than one way. Being independent as long as humanly possible is also a massive benefit to the rest of your family. The less your family worries about you, the more independent you can be, for longer. It’s a lot less expensive for you to stay independent.

So, let's move on to look at things you can do to make your life better and to keep your mind sharp as you age.