Use it or lose it, as the adage goes. Our brains are no different, according to recent research.
Our brains are stimulated by many of the same activities that we have all done from the time we were very young, such as reading, solving all kinds of puzzles and writing of any type.
As our senior loved ones age it is even more important to help them find opportunities to continue these brain stimulating activities in order to keep their brains sharp and reduce the likelihood of memory loss.
Benefits of Mentally Stimulating Activities
Studies show a 32% decline in cognition, including memory loss, when an older person remains engaged in mentally stimulating activities. Those seniors who did not participate in activities of mental acuity or rarely participated showed a 48% increase in cognitive impairment.
Researchers state that even when there is a beginning of the process of brain and cognitive impairment such as dementia, the circuits once stimulated find ways to circumvent the decline in processing and show a reduction in memory impairment.
Our brains are adapting to the loss of circuitry as long as our seniors keep their brains stimulated in specific activities. This adaptation, or “work around,” is referred to as the cognitive reserve hypothesis. The cognitively stimulating activity actually slows down the progression of cognitive impairment through adaptation.
Activities to Keep Your Seniors Brain Stimulated
There are a wide variety of activities our senior loved ones can pursue to help keep their brains stimulated.
- Continuous activity – the activity must be done routinely, not infrequently
- Participate in real world activities, not just pursuits such as crossword puzzles
- Activities should draw your senior’s focus and concentration
- Engage in hobbies that are sustained, such as quilting, photography, acting, conversing with others, solving everyday problems, reading, writing letters or journal entries, engaging with others on the internet, blogging or chatting with others, play board games, paint, or playing word games
- Participate in physical activity every day
- Learn to play a musical instrument or learn a new language
- Eat a healthy diet, including a variety of foods
- Tap into seniors’ spirituality, including meditation, stress reduction, yoga, prayer and contemplation activities
- Find ways to keep your senior engaged in life through socialization opportunities, community involvement and interacting with others to find a purposefulness in life
Keeping your seniors brain sharp involves a lifestyle of wellness and well-being. Including activities that stimulate their brain each day as well as maintaining activities to keep them healthy is a fun way to prevent cognitive decline and keep them safe to age in place as long as possible.
As family caregivers, it’s not too early to make changes in our lives to adopt these habits for our long term benefit, not to mention the benefit it will provide those for whom we care.