For the best part of 2020, most of us have been home a lot more than usual. Even though things are returning to some sense of normality for some states and territories across Australia, many of us are still feeling the impact of the pandemic, particularly older adults, who have been advised to be extra vigilant. This has left many of us feeling a bit lost, without our normal set routine and schedule. This lack of routine combined with the loneliness many of us are feeling as a result of necessary social distancing measures can affect our ability to think properly. According to Talya Fleming, M.D., “Periods of stress can affect many areas of brain function, including memory, attention, thinking, mood (including anxiety and depression) and sleep.”
During this time, it’s important to try to keep our minds active. Doing simple cognitive exercises can help to stimulate the brain. The more we challenge the mind, the better it is at processing information. For older adults, this is particularly important not just to keep our minds active during this period but also to ensure our cognitive ability continues as we age.
The following are some of the most effective activities for seniors to stimulate the mind and keep our brains sharp.
1. Reading Books, Magazines and Articles
Reading sparks the imagination and forces our brain to form images that match the written words. As such, reading is one of the most effective ways to exercise the brain; and it’s entertaining too!
Many of us enjoy relaxing with a good book. However, even if that’s not your thing, you can stimulate your brain by reading magazines or newspapers, or even looking at blog posts, articles or news stories online. This not only improves cognitive function but also serves to keep seniors informed.
2. Activities That Involve Hand-Eye Coordination
Activities that involve hand-eye coordination have been proven to improve cognitive skills. As such, finding an activity that involves hand-eye coordination is an excellent way for older adults to exercise their brain. Consider revisiting an old hobby or taking up something new such as knitting or sewing, painting, playing a musical instrument, or even playing video games.
3. Playing Word Games
Word games provide entertainment while also activating the mind and keeping it sharp. Word searches, Sudoku and crossword puzzles all provide numerous benefits, such as helping improve memory, increasing word recall and stimulating other brain functions. Puzzles can be found in the daily newspaper, or you can buy puzzle books for a wider selection of word games and puzzles. For older adults, there are a number of puzzle books available with larger print.
4. Playing Card Games
Playing a card game each night after dinner is an excellent way for seniors to keep their mind active as card games can engage the parts of the brain that are responsible for logic, problem solving, memory retention, and other functions. Solitaire, Bridge, Poker, and Go Fish are some examples of games that are effective in improving cognitive function in seniors.
5. Playing Chess
Chess is a game of strategy, which means it requires a certain amount of brainpower to play. Playing chess engages the brain as it requires planning, analysis, and problem solving. For older adults, playing chess has been proven to strengthen logical reasoning, and improve social and physical health.
6. Maintaining Physical Health
Maintaining our physical health is vital for maintaining our brain health. Our brains function best when we’re eating well, getting enough sleep, and staying physically active.
There are a number of ways for older adults to stay active, even if they have difficulty with mobility. You don’t need to do an intense workout to get some exercise; walking, gardening, housework and stretching can all provide that much-needed physical activity. If you want to try something new, consider trying out Ageless Grace®. Many of the moves in the program can be done from the comfort of your own home. Check out the Ageless Grace Australasia Facebook page for some inspiration. Exercise is so important as it will not only activate the brain, but also release endorphins that improve mood, alertness and overall wellbeing.
Ensure you are looking after yourself and your loved ones during this difficult time. For more information on this article, or the other services that we provide, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Brain Sparks.