If only keeping our brains refreshed and fully functional was as simple as pressing Ctrl R on our keyboards! Alas, keeping our brains sharp takes a little more work. “Use it or lose it” may be an over-stated expression in many cases, but when it comes to brain fitness in the elderly, it’s an apt one. Research has shown that elderly individuals who are mentally active were 2.6 times less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s than those who were not. This motivating statistic should encourage the ageing population to keep mentally stimulated and regularly exercise their brains.
Here are six ways for seniors to stay on top of the game with their brains.
Most people have some type of creative activity that they enjoy, whether it is gardening, painting, writing or cooking. These types of creative activity keep you thinking and keep you motivated. They also help you to solve problems creatively along the way.
Enrol in a course or class
Unless you are living in a remote location, there is generally an array of continuing education or short courses available. Different modes of learning can also make courses more accessible, such as remote learning, online, evenings or weekends. Taking a course is a great way of learning something new, whether it be something to do with computers, history, science, psychology – anything you please.
Play computer or video games
Computer games have been given a bit of a bad name due to the younger generation’s obsession with them. However, one study has found that seniors could perform mentally as well as those in their 30’s after committing to only 40 hours with brain training software. This finding has been so compelling that the video game giant, Nintendo, has now brought out a series of “brain age” games. These games offer mental exercises, accessed through a regular portable gaming system known as Nintendo DS.
The online world also has access to a never-ending supply of brain games such as maths problems, vocabulary increasing games, brain exercises, video games and more. Best of all, they are free!
The tie between cognitive health and physical exercise has been well established. The reason? No matter what your age, exercise is central to memory reinforcement. More great news is that any type of exercise helps. You could devise your own exercise program or simply go for regular walks, swim, cycle, join a local tai chi or yoga class or even hit the gym.
Tackle crossword puzzles or Scrabble
These renowned brainteasers are a fantastic way of increasing mental activity, keeping your grey matter stimulated. All that thinking and searching for “that word that’s just on the tip of your tongue” is fantastic for keeping your brain exercised.
Take a language class
Parlez-vous français? If not, now’s your chance! Or perhaps you’d like to learn Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin or any other language that takes your fancy. How seriously you take your language study is up to you. You may want to dabble in a fun, conversational class once a week to get the basics, or you may want to take it more seriously. A popular motivator for many is to plan an overseas holiday to a country where the language being learned is spoken.
For any of these brain stimulating exercises, approximately 15 to 30 minutes a day is all it takes to keep your brain agile and active. Ideally, these activities will become rewarding and enjoyable; and ones that will help keep elderly individuals self-reliant, confident and dignified for as long as possible.
Sage Institute of Aged Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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