A sunny and stress-free retirement has long been part of the American Dream. But a new study suggests that once people ditch the daily grind, their brain function takes a dramatic nosedive, reports The Daily Telegraph (U.K.). Researchers from University College London and King’s College London monitored the brain function of about 3,400 British civil servants over 30 years, a period covering both the later part of their careers and the first 14 years of their retirement. The cognitive tests showed that the workers’ verbal memory declined 38 percent faster once they retired—a change that affected even high-ranking employees who used to have mentally challenging jobs. The researchers stress that staying mentally active and socially engaged during retirement helps protect against cognitive decline. Cary Cooper, an expert in organizational psychology from Manchester Business School in England, says that rather than just doing Sudoku or crosswords, seniors should try their hand at something completely different from what they did in their jobs. “If you worked in the civil service all your life, why not go and help out in a hospital or teach?” he says. “The most important thing is to interact with people.”

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