Brain Games, Conversation and Good Health Habits: Tips for Staying Mentally Active

Guest blog by Karen Weeks

The notion that seniors reach a point where the brain can’t learn or develop anymore has been thoroughly quashed by recent findings about neuroplasticity, which show that the brain is capable of reorganizing and establishing new pathways. However, it’s essential that older people remain mentally active and use their brain to create new neural pathways. It doesn’t really matter how you do it — whether you’re reading, doing puzzles, or talking with friends over coffee.

Interact with Friends

Social interaction and being with friends not only makes you feel happy, but it also keeps your brain engaged recalling past events, pleasant memories, and exchanging ideas with people you care about. Additionally, it reinforces your sense of identity and keeps you looking forward to new experiences that stimulate your imagination. 

Dog Walking

There’s considerable mental and emotional benefit to spending time with animals. Taking your dog for a walk gets you out in the fresh air for exercise, and the companionship of a loving animal can be very emotionally beneficial. If you don’t have a dog or cat, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter or the Humane Society.

Cognitive Stimulation

One of the worst things older adults can do is to stop engaging their brain. Loss, isolation, and depression take a harsh toll and often leave seniors feeling hopeless, and some simply give up. Remaining mentally active keeps your brain healthy, so make a point of doing brain teasers, crossword puzzles, reading books, and keeping a personal journal — anything that exercises your mind and keeps you cognitively active is well worth doing.

Learn a New Language

Learning and using a new language strengthens your mental acuity in very unique ways. It builds intelligence, memory, and concentration, and it reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The complexity of learning a second language is one of the best workouts you can give your brain, and it’s a great way of staving off the mental effects of aging.

Bilingual people tend to have better cognitive abilities, higher intelligence, and are better at focusing on tasks and making decisions. There are plenty of online resources that can get you started learning the language of your choice. Duolingo, Busuu, and Living Language are just a few of the interactive sites and apps that can set you on the road to learning.

Healthy Diet

All those things you’ve heard about “brain food” have more than a kernel of truth to them. There are certain foods that help keep your brain healthy, like fish, nuts, eggs, and other proteins. These are good foods to eat, but the most important thing is to follow a healthy diet emphasizing the basics of fruit and vegetables, whole grain foods, proteins, and low-fat dairy.

Get Plenty of Rest

Sleep can be hard to come by as you age, but your need for seven to nine good hours of restful sleep a night doesn’t change. Loss of sleep saps your mental acuity and ability to concentrate, as well as impairs memory. It’s important that you find ways to relax and wind down in the evening. Try drinking a cup of herbal tea or a warm glass of milk before bed, or take a warm bath so your body temperature will go down afterward.

Staying active mentally during your senior years can help you remain engaged and happy. Make a concerted effort to stay active by doing puzzles, reading, and learning — anything that keeps you alert will be beneficial in the long run.


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