How to Improve Your Memory in Retirement

Early in my career my job routinely required me to juggle multiple responsibilities at the same time. A typical morning involved reading through accumulated emails with a phone wedged between my ear and shoulder while a line of sales reps formed just outside my cubical. I wasn’t necessarily the most efficient with my attention divided like this, but it was the nature of the job. There was so much to get done during the course of the day that I did not have the luxury to focus my attention exclusively on one item at a time. Fortunately, I was able to successfully multitask.

Now as I approach retirement age I am beginning to believe the multitasking I used to be so good at may do more harm than good. In my daily endeavors I find it increasingly challenging to juggle more than a few things at once. And I quickly forget the specifics. Without focusing my attention I miss important details along the way. Here’s what I’m doing to work on improving my memory:

 

Pay attention. I am discovering that my memory improves when I try to concentrate only on the specific task at hand. For example, when in a parking lot I make a conscious note of exactly where I leave my car. I pay particular attention to the name when introduced to someone new, trying to make some association that will help me remember. When
listening to a lengthy discussion, I make the extra effort to stay focused rather than allow my mind free reign to wander. I find that by focusing in on the one thing immediately at hand my memory miraculously improves. When we are constantly bombarded by advertising, noise and stimuli from all sides, it is easy to become sidetracked and distracted. But if we can cut through the noise and think clearly about what we are doing right now, perhaps we can resist the temptation to let our minds wander off the subject.

Forgetfulness. I don’t think that my memory challenges are entirely due to getting older. It is not that I am forgetful, but I am less able to divide my attention across multiple topics. If my mind wanders to a future dinner party at the instant I put my car keys down, chances are I will have a hard time relocating those same keys when it is time to head out the door. Should my wife share important events of her day while I am looking at the clock to see how close it is to the 49er’s kickoff, I risk missing her message entirely. And then I feel like a fool having to ask her to repeat what I know she just explained. The more I allow myself to be distracted by what I should be or can be doing, the less aware I become of what I am doing right now. Many a glass of water has overfilled and spilled onto the counter as I distractedly set about doing too many things at once. Maybe my younger mind was capable of this multitasking challenge, but these days it isn’t.

Live in the moment. It is easy to find your thoughts wandering, even when engaged in something as simple as walking the neighborhood after dinner. If your mind is out there somewhere, you can miss all that is going on around you at this specific moment. You may find yourself planning tomorrow’s projects, but by doing so overlook the magnificent world around you right now. As your thoughts stray, you miss the rising moon and first twinkling stars of the evening. More significantly, you ignore the person walking at your side when both of you are caught up in distant thoughts. By trying to live consciously in the moment, your attention is not diverted toward other horizons. You can become more aware and attentive. You may be surprised what you begin to notice, appreciate and remember.

Do one thing at a time. For me, maintaining a better memory really comes down to doing one thing at a time. I can still multitask but not as efficiently as I used to. In retirement I hope to be busy doing things I want to do at my own pace. I will have the luxury of putting off for later what I cannot manage right now. And this new freedom should allow me to focus on and appreciate each individual activity to the fullest. Rather than having my attention diluted across too many events, I plan to give each my all. With this focus, I hope my memory will be my friend in the years ahead.

From my US News & World blog. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

Are You Living a Good Retirement?

After long years spent working for a living and carefully building a future, when retirement finally arrives you sure don’t want to waste it. Whether you are someone who plans to busily pursue each new adventure or find yourself happy to take retirement one day at a time enjoying what comes at a more relaxed pace, commencing your second act can be a time of great expectation and optimism. Imagine finally having time to pursue those interests you were forced to deny during your busy work career. It can be a struggle to keep a smile from your face when you think of all you can do with your new found freedom and spare time.

However it is not uncommon to feel somewhat guilty with your newfound luxury to live as you choose. Not so long ago you were working just like the rest of the world. Is it fair for you to relax while others are still at it? Are you wasting time if at the end of the day you have nothing “productive” to show?

How do you know you are living a good retirement? Here are a few helpful ingredients:

First, you have sufficient interests, hobbies and passions to engage you on a regular basis so you do not find yourself bored. The day begins and you want to get out of bed to get to it. Sure you may move a bit more slowly but as long as you feel that drive to partake in what the day has to offer, you are headed in the right direction. Some find it important to pursue worthwhile endeavors, spending their time in meaningful ways that benefit themselves and those around them. They are forever in search of that next cause or situation where they may lend their knowhow and experience. Others are happy to commence at a more leisurely pace doing what they enjoy and want to do. The key is to find what is right for you and do it. Time moves quickly for those who always have something on their calendar. A busy engaged person is less likely to become bored with life and better able to make the most of retired living.

Second, your worries are for the most part a thing of the past. You have survived those stressful days spent struggling to raise a family, meeting financial obligations, climbing the career ladder, and worrying about the future. The future is now as you enter your retirement years. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on a job well done. Then prepare to get on with the next stage of your life. Of course the thought that your second act will be entirely worry free is a fantasy. There will always be something to worry about! But realizing you have endured so much to get to this point should provide some peace of mind.

Thirdly, you are being good to yourself. No one knows better the importance of living a healthy lifestyle than those who are getting along in years. Those bad habits and indulgences we easily tolerated while younger take a greater toll as we age. A happy retirement includes a lifestyle that supports healthy activities and practices. You need not be an obsessive gym rat but regular workouts that help maintain strength and balanced will pay off in the long run. We all love a good meal but can enjoy fantastic cuisine that will not clog our arteries or drive heart rates into the stratosphere. And a slower pace may be just the ticket as we travel those trips we have looked forward to. The better we are to ourselves the better equipped we will be to enjoy each undertaking.

The fourth sign you are living a good retirement is when you are engaging in life rather than watching from the sidelines. With increasing aches and pains and the challenges to do basic things, it may feel easy and safer to just stay home. After all, you know the environment, there are few unexpected surprises, and you probably have your favorite seat in front of the TV. But sitcoms and reality TV are poor substitutes for interaction with real people. Travel shows fall far short of the experience of wandering among real people and societies, smelling the food and feeling the atmosphere that makes each place unique in its own way. Becoming an active part of the world around can provide that satisfaction that few virtual experiences can come close to.

Finally, when you look at yourself in the mirror, are you the type of person that others like to be around? Are you the type of person that YOU would like to be around? We are for the most part social animals. We find satisfaction in spending time with others, family and friends, neighbors and co-workers. We want to share our life experience. Think about those you enjoy being around. What is it about them that draws you near? Why is it that when they crack a joke, even a feeble one, you cannot help yourself from joining in the laugh? If you are one of those people that others want to be around, it is likely your retirement will be filled with many moments that give you pleasure. Isn’t that what a good retirement is all about?

From my blog for RetireUSA.net

Enjoying Retirement After the Honeymoon Period

After working 30 or more years, retirement will offer a new challenge to stay active and engaged in a world that you now must manage. While ensconced in your career, you typically did not have to think twice about how to fill your hours. You walked in the door in the morning where your deadlines, meetings and duties were waiting. It was not a matter of having enough things to fill the day, but rather having enough time in the day to get everything done.

Then you retire and assume responsibility for filling your calendar with meaningful or at least entertaining activities. At first, it can be an exciting, liberating and truly joyful time. You finally have time to attack the to-do list you have been compiling for many years. And you now have an open calendar to take the trips you dreamed of for so long. Rather than being forced to rush out the door to get to work, you now have freedom to take things easy, enjoy the downtime and go with the flow.

But this happy time, what is often called the honeymoon period of retirement, can only go on for so long. Once your to-do list is done, you have experienced a few trips and the slow days of doing nothing begin to drag on, what do you do? Here’s how to enjoy retirement after the honeymoon is over:

Be realistic. Some people make the mistake of naively waltzing into a retired life with unrealistic expectations. Rather than planning ahead for their years of free time, they dream of retirement as an escape from a stifling career. They assume that once they leave the working world everything will be glorious. Unfortunately, that is not always the reality. Once retired, days will not magically fill themselves with fulfilling moments. It takes effort to realize a retirement that is all you hope for. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that by passively going with the flow of retired life you will miraculously realize a satisfying retirement each day. It is up to you to make it happen.

Be prepared. Imagine you have one week of free time with nothing on the calendar. What is the first thing you would do? And once that is done, what would be next on your list? Now imagine a year with nothing on the calendar. Do you think you have enough interests and passions to not just get you through that time, but to actually allow you to enjoy each step of the journey? As a retiree, you should plan on multiplying that one year by 20 or more. If you take the time beforehand to imagine and consider what you will do to occupy yourself, you might be a bit more prepared to make the most of your retirement. Instead of hoping for the best, do what you can to prepare the way to help insure a happy outcome.

Be considerate. Have you talked with your spouse about how they envision living in retirement? The two of you are in this for the duration, and working together from the start can make for smoother sailing over the long term. Although you may have lived together for decades, how often during that time was it 24/7 togetherness? It is very different being together full time during a weekend or a vacation than it will be sharing every day from this point forward. Where do your retirement plans coincide, and where do they diverge? What will you do together, and what individual interests might you pursue on your own? It is important to have both time for sharing activities as well as freedom to follow individual pursuits.

Be inspired. Now that you have reached retirement, don’t be shy about patting yourself on the back for a job well done. Not everyone is lucky enough to be where you are, so make the best of it. This can be an excellent time to try new things and experiment with passions you may have felt years ago. You have time on your hands, and no one telling you what to do. Let your imagination take you where it will. Think outside of the box you have lived in for so many years, and do what you want to do. Try new things, experiment and enjoy living your second act. When you look back over your life, wouldn’t you prefer to remember the crazy, exciting and inspired times you lived to the very end? May the honeymoon never end.

From my blog on Us News & World. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.