Exploring Retirement


Welcome to the May 2016 edition of Exploring Retirement!. Please do write and let us know your thoughts on Exploring Retirement. We would love to hear from you.

Each month we provide articles on well-being in retirement and also feature an activity to explore. Exploring Retirement is written by and for retired people, to assist active retirees make the most of their additional years of good health. No one knows it all, we are all explorers in this new land. We trust that you will continue to enjoy our monthly publication and please tell your friends about the site.

New writers are welcome, so if you are interested, please contact editor@exploringretirement.co.uk. For ideas to write about, have a glance at the July 2014 issue of Exploring Retirement, available by clicking on "Past Issues" in the navigation bar on the left of this page. These are only suggestions, please contact us if you have a different topic you would like to share your thoughts on.


Writing team

We have three regular contributors on our writing team. Here they are with a brief note explaining their principal areas of interest:

John Copelton, EditorDr John Copelton - well-being in retirementMichael McSorley, contributorMichael McSorley - lively comment on sport and cultureJeannette Lewis, contributorJeannette Lewis - inspiring ideas on retirement living


Exercise and Memory

Studies on effect of exercise on the functioning of the brain have found that exercise does indeed produce positive benefits in cognitive performance but that these are selective. That is to say some brain functions show marked improvement while others do not. Researchers have found that exercise mainly helped individuals perform tasks that are subserved by the frontal lobes of the brain. This is interesting because there is strong evidence today that our frontal lobes show the earliest and greatest amount of age-associated losses. As we get older it is the frontal areas of the brain that lose the most volume with age. Consistent with this, the tasks that draw on cognitive processes performed by the frontal lobes are especially affected by ageing.

Among other functions, the frontal lobes are thought to be responsible for working memory and executive control processes. Working memory is the system that performs the very important function of maintaining information in memory in the midst of distraction. Our executive control processes are involved in selecting tasks to be performed and co-ordinating their performance. The frontal lobes are also thought to control inhibitory processes or the ability to suppress task-irrelevant information.

The researchers suspect the exercise induced improvement in brain function lies in the so-called "fight or flight" system - the network of chemical messengers that regulate our arousal patterns and stress responses. Previous studies in rodents have shown that exercise causes the brain to release more acetylcholine, noradrenalin, and dopamine, neurotransmitters that are involved in arousal and are known to activate the frontal cortex.

All of this may sound very academic until you realise just how real-world are the capabilities that are controlled by the frontal lobes. Here is a brief list of some of these real-world tasks -

Walking briskly for forty minutes on just three days a week for a six-month period can be enough to improve mental functioning. This level of physical effort seems modest in light of the prospective cognitive rewards. Some researchers have reported that the benefits of exercise on memory are even greater when people mix resistance training with cardiovascular training and with intense cardiovascular exercise relative to moderate exercise. When it comes to maximising both your physical and mental functioning it is downright risky not to exercise.The physical benefits are so profound and the psychological and cognitive benefits are so important that it is essential for older adults to commit to a well rounded exercise programme that includes a significant cardiovascular component.


Featured Activity - Cycling Without Age

Cycling Without Age is a movement started in 2012 by Ole Kassow. Ole wanted to help the elderly get back on their bicycles, but he had to find a solution to their limited mobility. The answer was a rickshaw and he started offering free bike rides to the local nursing home residents.

He then got in touch with a civil society consultant, Dorthe Pedersen, at the municipality of Copenhagen (now Cycling Without Age), who was intrigued by the idea and together they bought the first 5 rickshaws and launched Cycling Without Age, which has now spread to all corners of Denmark, and has now spread to Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, UK, Germany, Austria, Italy, Singapore, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Slovakia, Netherlands, France and Chile - and it's now taking off in several more countries around the world.

Volunteers (pilots) sign up for bike rides with the elderly through a simple booking system as often or as rarely as they want to. It's all driven by people's own motivation. As of November 2015, more than 63 of Denmark's 98 municipalities offer Cycling Without Age from well over 400 rickshaws - and the numbers are still growing. More than 3,000 pilots ensure that the elderly get out of their nursing homes, out on the bikes to enjoy the fresh air and the community around them. They give them the right to wind in their hair.

To hear Ole tell the story of how Cycling Without Age came into being, watch this short video -

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Articles

Michael McSorley

Michael has been back to Italy, one of his favourite countries. Read how he got on this time by clicking here.

Jeanette Lewis

Jeanette has taken a break from "down sizing" to focus instead on "elder wisdom". To read her article click here.


Reflections

Reflections is intended to showcase short pieces of poetry or prose that reflect on our life experience. This month features another poem by my late friend and colleague, Philip Clarke.

To read "When the sun is shining in the sky", by Philip Clarke, click here.


I took this photo of the cherry blossom in our local park to remind us that Spring has finally sprung!