Physical fitness is important for older adults, but mental agility can be just as important for maintaining an active lifestyle. As you age, your memory may decline for a number of reasons. The body’s natural aging process causes signals to the brain to fire more slowly or be lost altogether.
While this process occurs at a different rate for everyone, there are ways to prevent the decline of your mental capabilities. Here are eight tips for keeping your mind active as you age.
1. Play Brainteaser Games
There are many excellent apps and websites that can help to keep your mind sharp. Apps like Lumosity and Brainscape feature a large selection of scientifically devised and tested games. These apps are designed to stimulate different areas of the brain, including the parts that deal with memory, problem solving and attention. In the long run, games like these have been shown to battle dementia and fight off other memory-related illnesses. There are also a number of free brainteaser games online including:
And if online games aren’t appealing to you, try your hand at the crosswords and puzzles that come in your local newspaper. These puzzles are a good way for you to mentally challenge yourself on a daily basis.
2. Learn a New Language
Studying a foreign language has been shown to slow the aging of the brain. Studies show that learning a second language later in life helps the mind stay strong and flexible. When the brain is forced to switch between languages in thinking, speaking, and writing, it creates a natural form of memory training that promotes continuous development.
If you are interested in learning a second language, products like Rosetta Stone are great resources. Boost your brainpower by exercising the language center and studying a foreign language.
Other language learning tools available include:
3. Start a New Book
If going to the gym builds physical strength, reading a book forms mental muscles. Intellectually stimulating the mind by reading provides a form of mental exercise that helps keep your brain strong.
A study published in the online journal of Neurology linked reading and other mentally stimulating activities to slower memory decline in later years. The study even showed a correlation between reading and the prevention of memory loss illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
While you may take reading for granted, it is actually a complex task that requires different parts of the brain to work together. When these mental interactions occur, your brain is actually developing new connections.
4. Spend Time at Community Centers
Community centers are an excellent and often entirely free resource for maintaining mental agility. With nightly activities hosted by community members, including games and workshops, these centers often provide endless opportunities to stay active mentally.
In addition to scheduled events, the social interaction provided at community centers helps the brain to continue developing. As you get older, the opportunity for social interaction typically declines. You may no longer have a workplace to socialize, but these community centers provide convenient meeting points for you and your friends to interact. Socializing at your local community is an effective way to keep your mind strong as you age.
5. Share Memories with Friends & Family
With years of experience and stories, you can help keep your mind active through sharing stories from your life with family members or friends. By recalling details, you are giving your mind the mental exercise it needs to stay active.
However, if sharing stories isn’t for you, try writing down your memories in a journal. Recalling memories and writing them down is a great way to help build and maintain your memory.
Writing down day-to-day activities in your journal can also be very helpful to keeping your mind sharp. You can even double your journal as a planner by writing down thoughts and tasks for future events. Relying on your memory can fail, but having your thoughts written down makes keeping appointments much easier!
6. Fit Body, Fit Mind
Your mind is a muscle, and all the muscles in your body need to work together to keep your body strong. Studies show that physical exercise can actually help boost your brainpower.
When you implement cardiovascular exercise in your routine, your body can create new brain cells and improve your overall brain performance. The studies suggest that a vigorous workout increases levels of a protein in your brain that promote learning and decision-making.
Furthermore, exercise also increases cells in the brain responsible for memory and language retention. Whether you are walking or jogging, lifting weights, or joining a group exercise class, continuing a fitness routine is an important part of building a strong mind. Keeping your body active means staying mentally fit, too!
While exercise certainly plays an important role in your mental health, another aspect to consider when looking at maintaining memory is the food you put in your body. Sources of excellent brain food include fish, avocados, and superfoods like goji berries and blueberries. Adding these in to your meals promotes a healthy mind and body.
7. Introduce a Little Culture
Cultural activities like movies, plays and concerts are shown to help older adults retain healthy literacy.
When a study was introduced in England for adults over the age of 50 that tested the correlation between culture and mental acuity, the results were astoundingly strong. Independent of wealth and education, cultural activities helped 87% of participants improve their score on a literacy test. These results suggest that movies, art and music are great ways to keep your mind sharp as you age.
In addition to engaging your mental facilities, cultural events are a great way to socialize with new friends. Whether you are going to the Opera or just taking in a movie at the local theater, culture can help promote strong mental health.
8. Set Daily Goals for Learning
Learning a new word not only strengthens your understanding of the world, but also enhances the learning centers of the brain.
Each day, pick a new word that you’re not familiar with. Make it a goal to learn the meaning, origins and the history of the word. Setting small but continuous goals like this can be instrumental in keeping your mind active. To make it simpler, use an online tool for picking your daily word, such as Wordsmith.
Other word of the day tools include:
If this activity doesn’t seem challenging enough for you, try memorizing an entire poem each day. According to actress Dame Judi Dench, learning a new poem daily helps her stay sharp and mentally healthy. This daily digestion of poetry can also contribute to your cultural goals.
Staying Active in Independent Living Communities
There is a lot of focus on physical fitness with adults as they age, but mental health is just as important. Studies have shown that exercising your mind can deter mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Try to challenge yourself with difficult games and puzzles. Pick up an interesting book. Or just go take in a play or movie with a friend. Maintaining strong mental health can be both fun and easy and can contribute to a longer and happier life.