As we age, we get a lot of information from doctors and other health professionals on how we can keep our bodies healthy to avoid diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other life-changing health conditions.
However, research shows that exercising our brains is also crucial. Mental exercises help keep an older person’s senses sharp, neural pathways balanced, and mental health in check.
Brain exercises for seniors are an excellent addition to their daily routines, offering a host of benefits that will enhance and add enjoyment to their vintage years.
What are the benefits of brain exercises for older people?
Brain exercises provide several significant benefits that will improve an older person’s overall health and well-being, such as:
Enhances cognitive stimulation
Brain exercises help stimulate the different cognitive functions of your brain. This includes executive functions such as planning, focusing attention, remembering instructions, making decisions, juggling multiple tasks, working memory, and managing time.
Improves mood and outlook
Older people who may be bored or dealing with illness might feel they have no control over their situation. Brain exercises and games can help them regain a sense of control, improving their mood and outlook.
Helps prevent social isolation
Although playing games online is fun and convenient, playing in person with others gives you the bonus of companionship. Socialization helps stimulate cognitive function by engaging in conversation, learning the names of your players, and paying attention to the broader atmosphere in the room. Preventing social isolation by participating in fun pursuits with others helps battle depression, a growing concern among the older population.
Builds brain connections
Learning something new triggers changes in your brain, including the creation of new connections, known as synapses, where information is passed from one neuron to the next. This activity supports brain function and performance. However, whichever new activity you choose to learn must interest you, or the connections won’t be sustainable.
6 Exercises that Give Your Brain a Workout
Exercising your brain is a lot like exercising your body. You likely won’t gain lean muscle mass by running on a treadmill. Different areas of the body need to be targeted to be truly physically fit.
It’s the same with exercising your brain. You need to target different parts of your cognition to give it the workout it needs to stay healthy, alert, and focused.
Here are six fun brain exercises you can try or introduce to an elderly loved one:
Whether they’re 100 or 1,000-piece puzzles, jigsaws stimulate multiple cognitive functions. Seeing and matching puzzle pieces with similarly-shaped pieces and spaces helps engage your brain’s visual-spatial working memory skills.
Online brain games
Online brain games provide hours of stimulating fun right at your fingertips. BrainHQ, Cognifit, and Luminosity are just a few of the word, math, speed, shape, and problem-solving games available that challenge memory, concentration, problem-solving, and attention skills. They also give you a sense of accomplishment as you complete levels and move on to more challenging exercises.
Card and board games
Playing card games online or with friends can stimulate your cognitive abilities. For example, playing bridge requires you to remember which player has played which cards, develop a strategy that counters other players’ intentions, and keep track of the game’s complex points system. Other strategic board games, such as chess, checkers, and mah-jong, also challenge and enhance your cognitive abilities.
Answering descriptive clues and matching a certain number of letters into spaces exercises your verbal memory. You can find a wide range of difficulty levels online or in bookstores, so you won’t become bored by crosswords that are too easy to complete or frustrated by puzzles that are too difficult.
Models and knitting
Model building and knitting are examples of tactile hobbies that flex procedural memory. Procedural memory includes understanding, recollecting, and performing a sequence of actions to complete the project. Plus, you’ll have a finished product of which you can be proud.
Dancing provides more than just a great physical workout. Learning new and complex sequences of dance moves exercises your brain’s tactile, visual, motor, and auditory abilities. Matching your movements to the tempo and feel of the music and keeping in step with a partner also helps stimulate your brain.
Balance is the key to every successful brain workout. Activities should be challenging, but not so much that they cause the person to become frustrated and quit. Stress that can come from taking on too tricky a challenge can be damaging to the cognitive system.
Above all, all brain activities should be fun, engaging, and attractive to the older adult.
So, the next time you’re going to visit your parents, grandparents, or other older adults, be sure to pack up a collection of games and puzzles. Not only will you be enhancing your loved one’s cognitive health, but the time you spend together will also be a whole lot of fun!