The more we learn about the effects of aging on the brain, the clearer it becomes that lifestyle choices have a significant impact on whether or not we develop various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. We’ve known for a while that brain-flexing exercises such as doing crossword puzzles or learning a new language can help reduce your risk of developing dementia. New research now points to career paths that can help stave off Alzheimer’s. The key is complexity.
15. Graphic Designer
British researchers recently published a study in the journal Neurology arguing that those individuals who had more complexity in their jobs tended to be less likely to be afflicted by dementia at age seventy. They split “occupational complexity” into three categories; the first is “data.” Those who had more data-driven jobs, such as graphic designers, performed higher on processing and speed skills, as well as general thinking skills.
14. Probation Officer
A second area of complexity that researchers pinpointed in their study of people’s careers was “people.” In other words, those jobs that require complex social interaction, such as that of probation officer, challenge the brain daily, keeping it fit and less likely to become afflicted by dementia. Probation officers’ responsibilities require their constant interaction with not only their parolees but also various officers of the court and governmental assistance workers. These interactions keep their minds sharp.
13. Instrument Maker
The third area of complexity is that of “things.” Careers that involve the complexity of things are those that require making decisions about the best tools for a job or preparing or repairing machines for operation. Instrument making requires sustained attention to detail and a mind capable of solving both mechanical and musical problems. Tasks such as these are proven to keep the mind sharp even into old age.
Musicians get a bad rap for being lazy, unfocused, and willing to throw their lives away on something that’s ironically both considered unimportant work and one of the largest and most profitable industries in the world. If you’re considering being a career musician, don’t worry about telling your parents: just let them know that the highly complex, data-driven basis of musicianship is helping to keep your brain sharp for the future.
11. Machine Setter
It might not seem like a glamorous calling, but being a machine setter has some serious benefits for your brain. Machine setters, whose jobs entail setting up and performing adjustments on machinery in all kinds of settings, including factories, must constantly troubleshoot and problem solve. Jobs such as this that require manual dexterity and complex thinking keep the brain from stagnating as you age.
Nurses are often lauded as the unsung, underappreciated heroes of the medical care world. A huge part of their job requires working with people, constantly. Practicing nurses need a lot of data and information immediately available in their minds, but being a nurse is first and foremost about treating the people that bring you their problems. For that reason, nursing is great for staving off dementia.
Lawyers bear the brunt of a lot of jokes and are often (perhaps unfairly) thought of as opportunists, but their jobs require extremely complex negotiations among people and boatloads of data. Being a practicing attorney requires the ability to manage people’s expectations, work their emotions, and be a trustworthy confidant – all while using tons of legal precedent and research to back up their claims.
The field of architecture has a heavy basis in the art world, but at the end of the day, an architect’s job is to build structures for human beings to use and inhabit safely. The complex interaction of creativity, aesthetics, functionality, safety, and a whole lot of math keeps the architect’s mind constantly working in precisely the kinds of patterns that keep it functioning healthily well into old age.
7. Civil Engineer
Civil engineers are essentially mathematicians who get to work with real-world problems. Engineering involves incredibly high levels of mathematical reasoning and data-gathering. Designing civil works such as bridges and utility infrastructure is some of the most demanding brainwork there is, and with some of the highest stakes. These types of tasks help protect the plasticity, or ability to change, of the brain’s delicate neural networks. Higher plasticity ensures much lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Physicians deal with patient data and records on a daily basis. Today’s physicians offices must process vast amounts of paperwork every day in order to maintain insurance logs and patient records. Physicians must also stay current on the latest medical research, which is often quite technical in nature. While physicians deal with these data-related tasks on a daily basis, they also must interact with their patients and offer a small degree of counseling to nervous or worried patients. These two types of tasks ensure physicians fend off Alzheimer’s disease much more than other careers.
Teachers are on the front lines of the difficult but rewarding field of education. Teachers have the unique and admirable job of essentially raising other people’s children, or at least offering an education. Teachers of young children have to confront all of the problems associated with children – emotions, health problems, fights, relationships – all while having to also educate them. Teaching involves daily social interaction as well as processing large amounts of data in the form of test scores and paperwork – two types of work which keep the brain healthy.
4. School Counselor
School counselors must have incredible people skills, as their job entails not only dealing with children, but the parents of their students as well. School years can be very difficult on children who are coming of age, and school counselors have to be able to help children of all walks of life as they struggle to find their places in the world. Every year, school counselors get to see a new batch of children and create all new relationships. This type of regular, unpredictable social interaction keeps the brain’s plasticity in good health.
3. Social Worker
Just the very job title of ‘social worker’ is enough to put it on this list. Social work is rated as one of the best jobs to prevent Alzheimer’s due to the daily interactions with clients. Social work is often emotionally difficult, as social workers are called to help members of the public often during their worst times of their lives. The amount of close personal interaction involved with social work keeps the brain highly active late into social workers’ lives.
While most people think of surgeons only as a type of carpenter or mechanic for the human body, surgeons do a lot more than cutting people open and taking things out/putting things in. Surgeons have to have immense people skills, interacting with their patients both before and after the surgeries the perform. Surgeons act as a type of counselor of sorts, assuring patients that they are in good hands and keeping their spirits up during difficult post-surgery blues.
Managing a workforce of any kind takes a significant amount of people skills. Not only do managers typically have to be the face of companies for public interactions, but they also have to help facilitate their workers’ performance through personal interactions. Being a manager not only forces one to deal with people, but to deal with data as well. Human resources data, sales figures, and performance indicators are some of the types of data managers have to work with on a regular basis.