The Secret to Staying Mentally Fit in Retirement

Steve McDonald By Steve McDonald, Bond Strategist, The Oxford Club

Two-Minute Retirement Solution

Just because we’ve shut down the work portion of our lives, it doesn’t mean we can shut down our brains too.

In fact, researchers tell us that one of the best things we can do to keep ourselves mentally fit in retirement is learn something new – a new skill, vocation, a language or even an instrument.

And – no – it’s not too late.

Most people think that they’ve missed the boat if they didn’t learn something as a child. But that’s a bunch of bunk.

If we start in our 50s, most of us have 30, maybe 40 years to work at something new. That’s a lot of time to improve, even for the over-the-hill gang.

Research suggests that incorporating something new, creative and challenging into your life isn’t just fulfilling, it has health benefits too. It can enhance emotional well-being, brain health, cognition and – in the case of music – hearing function.

And the positives of learning something new in retirement are…

  • We certainly have the free time.
  • Our parents aren’t forcing the piano on us.
  • We tend to be more forgiving of our shortcomings and flubs than we were as kids. That makes learning more fun.
  • And I find that I can laugh at myself more easily than when I was a teen.

Learning anything new has some anxiety associated with it, but doing it in a group setting where everyone is going through the same thing helps a lot. There are all kinds of instruction groups popping up just for seniors.

And that adds a social component. Don’t forget about your social network.


I recently took up tennis and have found that I laugh like a kid at my errors, misses and tumbles. My coach – who’s the same age as me – and I have a party laughing together.

I’m not as fast as I once was, and I don’t have the endurance of a 20-year-old, but I am having a ball and look forward to every lesson and match.

I’ve become so addicted to it, I go out on my off days and hit with the ball machine.

What a change from when I was a teen and refused to do anything my parents suggested! God, we were so dumb!

All of us have lived through so many bumps that we have very different attitudes about failure, new things and taking on challenges from those we had when we were young.

Life has a way of putting it all into perspective.

So let’s use our new, hard-earned senior perspective on life!

Get out there and try swimming, playing tennis, playing the guitar, learning Spanish/French/Chinese, cooking, whatever.

It’s not only fun, it’s good for you too.

Where have I heard that before?

Good investing,

Steve