Content starts here

Your Brain in Your 50s

An up-close portrait shot of a man smiling inside a home
Westend61/Getty Images

Ah, the 50s. This is the age when we start asking that well-known question, “Where did I put my keys?” In terms of memory, the areas that decline most include episodic memories (remembering what you ate for lunch) and source memories (remembering where you read about something).

Changing your habits can pay mental dividends. About one-third of the risk factors for dementia are potentially modifiable through lifestyle changes. Here are a few lifestyle changes to consider:

  • Challenge yourself. Mentally stimulating activities can help you maintain your memory, thinking, attention and reasoning skills as you age, according to a 2017 report from the Global Council on Brain Health. It recommends activities such as taking up a hobby, learning a language and enrolling in a class.
  • Play games with a timer. When you race against a clock, you use the intellectual skills most challenged by aging, including sustained attention, processing speed and reasoning. Try Boggle, Scattergories or Word Streak With Friends.
  • Work up a sweat. In a University of Texas at Dallas study, sedentary adults ages 56 to 75 rode a stationary bike or walked on a treadmill for an hour three times a week. After six weeks, blood flow to the hippocampus and anterior cingulate (an area linked to memory and attention) had improved, and within 12 weeks, the subjects’ memory had improved.
  • Meditate. Meditation isn’t easy, which deters some people. Yet this practice challenges the brain, giving it a boost. A UCLA study found that older adults who meditated for around 20 years had bigger brains and more gray matter, and their brains appeared 7.5 years younger than those of people who didn’t meditate.

Learn more on AARP® Staying Sharp®

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

Search AARP Blogs