7 Tips to Increase Brain Fitness For Seniors
We often talk about the importance of exercising the body, but exercising the brain is equally as critical. And there’s no better time to start giving your brain a daily workout than now. Formerly associated with children, brain teasers are now known to have brain-boosting benefits for adults of all ages, too. Let’s take a closer look at why brain fitness matters and how to get your daily workout started.
Scientists learn more about the amazing power of the brain every day. While previous research indicated the brain’s capacity to learn and grow stopped with age, recent studies show the brain is continually able to learn and adapt through the creation of new neural pathways. Called neuroplasticity, this phenomenon has overhauled the way scientists think about brain function, and holds new hope for older seniors, including those with brain disease and damage.
While we know the benefits of physical exercise for keeping your body and muscles strong, we now also know that mental exercise plays a critical role in strengthening your brain. And just as the same physical workout can decrease in effectiveness over time, the same set of challenges to the brain can become less effective. In other words, in order to keep your brain healthy, it’s essential to introduce new, adaptive experiences.
The 411 on Neuroplasticity
Scientists have long thought that the brain’s ability to learn and grow was hardwired and finite. However, the latest research on neuroplasticity reveals that the brain can actually continue to change, reorganize and create new pathways. Not only is this linked with healing brain injuries, but it also indicates that human brains can adapt and stay sharp well past the formative years.
One caveat? In order to realize the full benefits of neuroplasticity, you must practice using your brain. Brain teasers offer a fun and effective way to promote this beneficial function.
Brain “Workouts” for Your Aging Loved One
1. Introducing Cranium Crunches
Wondering where to get started? Visit Cranium Crunches. This great website not only provides an overview of brain health, but also includes a database of games and activities created by Western Oregon University Psychology and Gerontology professor Rob Winningham, an expert in memory, aging, and cognitive stimulation. Choose from exercises scientifically engineered to help with everything from honing your attention skills to enhancing processing speed to making new brain connections.
The best part? The more you practice, the stronger your brain will become. In fact, staying mentally active may even ward off Alzheimer’s, dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.
Nutrition is also a huge focus when it comes to brain fitness. There are certain foods that are ‘brain healthy’ such as berries, nuts, eggs, and salmon. Studies are constantly showing new brain super foods as well. Yet an overall healthy diet that keeps in mind your personal dietary needs is essential to keeping your brain healthy also.
3. Stress Management
Stress is often very prevalent as people age; family members may have moved, friends and family members may be passing away, health issues and physical limitations are exacerbated, and even current events locally and around the world may increase stress and anxiety. With the amount of possible stress factors in a senior’s life, it is important to know how to deal with tragedy and stress in a productive way.
4. Social Interaction
Social interaction is critical for positive aging outcomes. Individuals should continue to develop existing relationships and create new ones with those around them. Looking forward to events with others will provide a positive feeling. Friends and family can help in many ways small and large; something as simple as playing a card game together or helping an aging loved one with transportation to an event or appointment.
Everyone needs his or her beauty rest, but as one ages it sometimes gets more difficult to get the recommended 8 hours of sleep. As one ages, sleep patterns change and lack of sleep can effect cognitive function in the short-term and increases stress. Making sure that you allow time to relax and get a good amount of sleep every night will increase your overall brain health.
Spirituality includes feeling a sense of belonging and a feeling that life has a definite purpose. It includes having a positive outlook, reducing stress, increasing activity levels and staying engaged with the surrounding world. This will stimulate the brain and keep it healthy.
7. Mental Stimulation
Mental stimulation, like brain teasers, keeps your mind thinking and actively working. Research has shown that mental stimulation is an important way to develop a stronger and healthier brain. Activities that challenge and focus the brain helps organize and build new connections within the brain itself.
Making sure you pay attention to these components of brain fitness will allow for healthy and successful aging. It is never too late to pay attention to these aspects of life and try to improve them to help maintain overall brain health as one ages.
Senior care communities provide several ways to achieve all of these goals through social activities, promoting nutrition and physical health and providing resources to help individuals deal with stressful situations.
Maximizing the Benefits
Want to learn even more about how to enhance cognitive function, maximize memory, and manage the challenges of working with people suffering from cognitive impairment? Consider Dr. Winningham’s Certified Cognitive Stimulation Program.
This DVD training series offers comprehensive brain training instruction, and can be beneficial to everyone from family caregivers to health care professionals. Thousands of professionals have completed the course and received the valuable “Certified Cognitive Stimulation Instructor” diploma in the process.
Brain teasers offer a proven way to optimize neuroplasticity...and have a little fun, too. One last thing to keep in mind? While encouraging your aging loved one to engage his/her mind is important, people of all ages -- including you! -- should embrace brain exercise in order to derive plentiful benefits of their own.
As your loved one focuses on their brain make sure they don't forget about physical exercises too! Get your free copy of "Exercise for Seniors: Tips for Getting Active."
About Chelsea Sayegh
I started working as a Marketing Coordinator for United Methodist Homes in October of 2016. I work on public relations, website management and community planning for their award winning independent and assisted living communities. As a graduate of Ursinus College with a degree in Media and Communications and a passion for serving nonprofits, United Methodist Homes has become my home away from home. I spend my days working in a community filled with smiling faces, helpful hands and wonderful residents. I have a passion for assisting seniors and take great pride in being able to promote a company with such a positive mission and values. As an individual committed to learning and growing, I have jumped right into this exciting career!
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.