Our bodies might break down, but if we still have our brain – we can enjoy life and family and social experiences for decades. It’s when we lose our mental acuity that people really seem to think we are ‘old’ or ‘out of touch’. So tuning in with our thinker becomes vital to ensuring brain health as we age.
For seniors, brain health is not something that just takes care of itself – there are ways to keep your brain healthy, just like exercising your body keeps your muscles healthy. Here are a few brain health tips that can keep your mind sharp and your soul happy.
1. Play Games and Video Games
If chess is too challenging –as it can be for many of us—try checkers, word puzzlers, and card games to hone your mental savvy. If you have a tablet or PC, playing computer games that require memory and strategy to win can help improve brain health as you age. Research with elderly adults has also revealed that video games that require full body movement can improve emotional and physical well-being of elderly persons, in addition to motivating individuals to maintain a basic level of activity. Practice your balance with interactive digital games like bowling and tennis.
2. Stay Social
Isolation can be one of the most unpleasant experiences for any individual – but especially for the elderly. Engaging in conversation exercises the language processing parts of our brain. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, regular participation in social settings can maintain your brain health.
3. Adopt a Pet
There’s no equal to Fido’s ability to provide companionship, affection, and psychosocial stimulus for the elderly. The joy and delight that animals can bring to seniors can improve brain health by stimulating the pleasure centers of the brain, and stimulate serotonin – the feel-good chemical—in our brain.
4. Stay Active
Exercise increases blood flow to all areas of the body, including the brain, which is vital for maintaining brain health as you age. Research shows just moderate physical activity about 3 times per week was enough to stave off brain impairment for 2 years. The types of exercise that were included were walking, hiking, bicycling, swimming, gardening, or other types of exercise. We think that chasing around after grandchildren can also count—not to mention how much fun it is!
5. Find a Club or Hobby Group to Join
Whether it’s a book club, and gardening venture, quilting or cards, becoming a member of a group can give you something to look forward to during the month. Many schools will allow the grandparents to read books to classroom children, and volunteering can give seniors a sense of purpose and contribution to society. To find a senior center, visit ElderCare here for a list of providers.
Baecker, R.M., Shim, N., Tonon, K., Pandeliev, V., Birnholtz, J., Stern, Y., Steinerman, J.R., and Moffatt, K. ‘Serious’ online gaming environments to enhance brain fitness in senior citizens. Gerontechnology 9, 2 (2010), 190.
Ryder EL Pets and the elderly. A social work perspective.The Veterinary Clinics of North America. Small Animal Practice [1985, 15(2):333-343] (PMID:3872514)
Etgen T, Sander D, Huntgeburth U, Poppert H, Förstl H, Bickel H. Physical Activity and Incident Cognitive Impairment in Elderly Persons: The INVADE Study. Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(2):186-193. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.498.