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Your Brain Health at 60+

What to expect for your cognitive function in your 60s

Illustration of a man thinking

Peter Arkle

In a recent Gallup poll, people in their later 60s got significant emotional benefits from exercise. Just three days of exercise per week decreased the odds for depression by 42 percent.

The good news in your 60s: You’re much wiser than your 50-year-old self.  

The reality check in your 60s: Doing math on the fly doesn’t come quite as easily.

  • To stay smart, your brain rewires. It links areas on the right and left hemispheres to remember names now. And it processes emotions through the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala (another trick younger brains don’t do as well), so you’re less bothered by negative stuff and get a bigger boost from positive experiences. 
  • Your brain grows wiser. In one study, people in their 60s tested higher in their ability to compromise, maintain perspective and be flexible than young or middle-aged people did. It may be time to pick up some Scrabble or Words with Friends. Vocabulary skills are stronger in your 60s than in your 20s, according to researchers. 
  • Yes, you’re losing neurons. But then again, you’ve been losing them at a rate of about 25,000 a day since your 20s. Synapses begin to thin out, and mental processing speed and the ability to do math quickly in your head are not what they used to be.
  • All that sofa time is not helping things. People in their 60s watch more than three hours of TV a day, compared with the two hours that teenagers watch. 

Learn what to expect for your health and wellness in your 50s, 60s and 70s in this series from AARP The Magazine. 

  • Exercise can keep your mind vital. Staying active may prevent shrinkage of the hippocampus in those at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise also lowers your chances for dementia by nearly 30 percent.   
  • You have more control over depression. In a recent Gallup poll, people in their later 60s got significant emotional benefits from exercise. Just three days of exercise per week decreased the odds for depression by 42 percent. It also increased the chances of feeling optimistic by 32 percent — higher than for other age groups in the poll.
  • But you're getting anxious about losing your memory. If you’re among the 3 out of 4 people in their 60s who rank losing their memory as their top aging concern, don’t lose sleep over recent studies connecting dementia risk to common aging issues such as a diminished sense of smell. It’s too soon to know what these findings really mean for future risk or what to do about it, according to the researchers. 
  • Now is the age to be on the lookout for a TIA. If you have a weird, thunderclap headache, sudden balance problems, numbness or temporary vision problems, take them seriously. These can be signs of a type of stroke called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). When in doubt, call 911. Two days after a TIA, your risk for a stroke is 3 to 10 percent. At three months, it’s 9 to 17 percent.

Next Story:

Your Senses at 60+

 

Illustrations showing what to expect when you're in your 60s

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