Here’s an interesting discovery: despite the stereotypes, cognitive decline is not inevitable as you age. While some parts of the brain tend to atrophy as people get older, brain scans of some 70-year-olds resemble that of 20 to 30-year-olds. Some research attributes this phenomenon to a healthy lifestyle and habits that keep the mind sharp.
While assisted home care allows seniors access to help they need to stay active and mobile, stimulating their minds and keeping it sharp is primarily their responsibility. The good thing is there is no shortage of mental exercises that can help stimulate the brain and sharpen reasoning, thinking, memory, and processing skills.
Best Mental and Cognitive Exercises for Seniors
To optimize brain health and impact neuroplasticity positively, it is recommended that seniors incorporate cognitive and mental exercises into their daily routine. Some of the mental and cognitive exercises they can look into include:
Learning a new skill or hobby
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to exercise the brain is to pick up a new hobby or skill. If you have an elderly loved one, you can inspire them to take cooking, music, painting, or knitting lessons.
Since a natural sense of accomplishment comes from learning a new skill, it also motivates them to use their brain power and stay active. Taking a class with your elderly loved one is also a great way to spend time with them and help them stay mentally sharp.
Nowadays, we live in a society where almost everything is done digitally. No matter what it is that we do, there is an app for it. That said, many people are no longer making lists or writing things down the old-fashioned way. Ask your elderly loved one to create a to-do list and have them recall the items they have written.
Having them recall what they have written is a great way to strengthen their memory. Another way to strengthen their recall and sharpen their minds would be to have them remember items they have written on their grocery list. You can also ask them to talk about their pets, experiences, and life growing up.
Creating things with their hands
Creating things with your hands is not only stimulating and fun, it can also be a good brain exercise for your senior loved ones. Crafts like quilting or pottery have been known to reduce the risk of developing memory loss by as much as 30 to 50 percent. Creating things with their hands has also been known to help fight depression and minimize anxiety.
Completing a craft project can also help increase the overall happiness and sense of fulfillment among seniors. Not only that, crafting can also give them some sense of purpose and build their confidence at the same time. Other crafting projects seniors can engage in include knitting, ceramics, painting, and sewing.
Gardening is another popular pastime many seniors love. Gardening will not only keep seniors active and mobile, it is also a calming activity that has been known to help effectively reduce stress. This might not be common knowledge, but high-stress levels negatively impact both memory and learning.
High levels of stress have also been known to significantly increase their risk of developing certain mental conditions. A 2006 study looked into the link between reduced dementia risk and gardening. The study revealed that gardening could lower one’s risk of developing dementia by at least 36 percent.
While there are no clinically proven ways that can reverse the course of brain conditions like Alzheimer’s, it is reassuring to know that there are many mental and cognitive exercises that can help combat age-related mental decline.
About the author
Melissa Andrews is the Content Marketing Strategist for Paradise Living Centers, an assisted living center for seniors with locations in Paradise Valley and Phoenix, Arizona. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and going on hiking trips with her siblings and cousins.