You have probably heard people say that the best way to keep your mind sharp after retirement is to exercise it. This “use-it-or-lose-it thinking” is the subject of much debate. Many are deeply committed to this belief while others are skeptical. Although I cannot tell you mental activity will prevent Alzheimer’s, I do believe mental activity will prevent mental atrophy. The brain works by sending messages across nerve connections. The more we use and reinforce those connections, the better our mind and memory work. So, to that end, here are ten great ways to challenge your mind in retirement.

1. Take a course or class. Whether you take advantage of a bible study at your place of worship, audit a college course or sign up for an adult education course offered in your community, learning something new creates new mental connections and reinforces the connections that enable you to think in certain ways. Taking a class is also a great way to meet people with similar interests. You can get even more out of the course by joining or creating a discussion group to talk about what you are learning outside of class.

2. Join a reading discussion group. Most public libraries and other local organizations and institutions coordinate reading groups. Small groups of people who enjoy reading choose books and gather weekly to discuss the book they have chosen. Some groups include literature teachers, critics or other experts. Reading expands the horizons of the mind. These discussion groups offer social contact, a structure to keep you reading, and new insights. If you can’t find a group in your community, then start one.

3. Join a card or game club. Whether you play bridge, canasta, rummy, pinochle, chess, checkers or other games, join a club that plays regularly. You will have fun, great conversation with other players, and you will exercise and challenge your mind. Most card and board games, even internet games, challenge you to think in specific ways. Playing regularly reinforces your ability to think strategically or on the basis of the ability to remember previous plays, etc.

4. Get involved in a community project. Every community has ongoing or short-term projects to help members of the community or to improve the quality of life for residents in some way. Finding and becoming involved in a project that resonates with you values will put you in contact with other people who will challenge you to think creatively and logically to solve problems or perform tasks. This is a great way to use what you have learned in life and the skills you perfected on the job. And, you will almost certainly come away from the experience with a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

5. Take a part-time job doing something different. Taking a part-time job after retirement will help you learn new things and meet people with different interests and backgrounds. Many people who take part-time jobs after retirement choose something completely different from their careers. This is a nice change of pace, but it can also be a very good way to challenge your mind. Learn something new, meet new people, and maybe help some others in some way.

There are many wonderful ways to challenge your mind after retirement. Taking a course or class, joining a reading discussion group, joining a card or game club, getting involved in a community project, or taking a part-time job all have something else in common: they give you new opportunities to interact with other people on a regular basis. Our interactions with others also challenge our minds. So, get out there and do something fun and exciting to challenge your mind!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Cynthia Barnett is an author, speaker, life coach and a leading authority on how to "re-fire" and reinvent by making the rest of your life the best of your life. Go to to get your FREE report on the 7 Biggest Mistakes Retirees Make and How to Avoid Them for an Extraordinary Retirement.