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How to Exercise an Aging Mind

 
Watching the minds of our loved ones slowly – or quickly – deteriorate can be a painful and heartbreaking process.  Many of us even fear the outcome of our own mental state.  In the past we could do nothing more than sit around, wait and hope for the best.  Today, we have research on our side.  Studies have shown that there are initiatives we can take to “exercise our aging brains” which may have a positive impact on our overall cognitive function as we age.

There’s More to it than You May Think

Brain training involves more than just crossword puzzles and connect-the-dots.  The key to a healthier brain is a well-balanced life that has environmental, social, psychological and physical stimulation.  Whether for you or your senior loved one, try following these simple tips to keep the mind sharp for many years to come.
1 – Play mental games.  Once a day, choose a cognitive game to play.  One that forces you to think a little bit is best and be sure to spend a few minutes on it before you move on to something else.
2 – Learn a new skill.  Dare to pick up a new language or learn to play an instrument you’ve always adored.  These types of tasks challenge your memory and enable you to work both sides of your brain.  One small study showed that older adults approximately 60 years of age who trained themselves to learn the piano, performed better on cognitive tests 6 months later.
3 – Move!  Get up off the couch and exercise.  Aerobic exercise not only increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain but it actually stimulates the part of your brain in charge of memory function. 
4 – Make new friends and keep the old ones.  As the years go by, it’s so easy to lose touch with old friends and fall prey to a sedentary, stationary and uneventful social life.  No matter what our age, we are still humans and we need to interact with others.  More than connecting with existing friends, the act of meeting and communicating with new people provides greater frontal cortex stimulation.  Studies show that introducing yourself, paying attention to your attitude, the impression you’re giving, your body language, what you say, and so on are all tasks that are hard to keep track of when you meet someone new, and therefore, it’s a great brain activity.
5 – Have a hobby.  When we’re young, we have things we’re good at and love to do.  Sometimes once we enter our senior years, after we’ve had a career, raised our children and managed a household, we let go of those past hobbies that used to make us so happy.  It’s time to get them back.  Hobbies showcase our skills and allow us to do something that brings us joy.  For seniors, this provides a much-needed sense of purpose, a factor so important in overall mental health.
Attitude comes before action.  Your frame of mind plays a big role in brain conditioning.  Emphasize the positives in your senior loved one’s life.  Wake up each morning thankful for what you have and motivated to do something new.  Then resort to one of the five simple tips above and enjoy yourself as you exercise your mind and extend your mental health for the long term.
 

 

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