DALLAS –– Barabara Delabano is the type of person French researchers used to study the impact of working on elderly brains: The administrative assistant is still employed despite being 83-years-old. She says she loves it.
"I like the routine of coming to work every day and being with a group of people every day," Delabano said.
Presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Boston, French researchers found that, of the half a million elderly subjects they followed, those who stayed on the job lowered their risk of Alzheimer's or dementia 3 percent each year they delayed retirement.
"It's kind of the interaction –– being at work, building your cognitive reserve, but also interacting with people," said Dr. Mary Quiceno, a doctor at UT Southwestern. "Getting physical exercise, being physically active depending on your job; I think it's probably an interplay of all those things that helps people reduce the risk of dementia."
Quiceno said the study makes sense. More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. A report from the Alzheimer's Association of America estimates that number will climb to nearly 14 million by 2050 as the Baby Boomer population ages.
What causes these sorts of mind-robbing diseases is not known. There is no cure, but research is ongoing.
Quiceno says people should think about things that reduce their chance of developing the disease while they are young.
Namely, "controlling our blood pressure, controlling our weight, exercising, thinking of diet," she said. "There's a lot of things we can do now to reduce our risk of dementia later."
But back to Delabano: "As long as I enjoy it, I don't see any reason to retire," she said of her job at The Senior Source in Dallas. "Occasionally I'll say an extra day off during the week might be nice. On the other hand, I don't know what I'd do with just an extra day off!"