Reaching the age of retirement is something everyone works towards throughout their lives. Once a person reaches that magic age, it's a time for relaxation and leisure time. However, seniors shouldn't relax too much, as the more their brains remain unchallenged in their day-to-day lives, the more they begin to lose their once-sharp brain function. Processes that used to come easy to them now take a little longer to figure out. In order to stop or slow down this age-related progression, it's important to encourage seniors to do regular mental activities.
A study by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that it doesn't matter so much what types of activities seniors engage in. The key is for seniors to participate in new and different activities that encourage them to use their brains, something that people are less apt to do in the later stages of life. Reading and writing can certainly help keep the brain active, but those are activities seniors have been engaging in for decades. Finding a new hobby can challenge the mind in exciting ways. The following is a list of activities that might be new and different to seniors, thereby increasing the mental stimulation associated with each one.
- Crossword Puzzles: Some seniors may have always ignored the Lifestyle section of their newspaper with the daily crossword puzzle, but now is a great time to start working on it.
- Painting and Drawing: Even for seniors who never thought of themselves as very artistic before this is a great activity. For newly-artistic folks, it will be tapping into a new section of their brains.
- Arts and Crafts: Participating in arts and crafts can be a great way for seniors to engage their minds while also improving hand-eye coordination.
- Bingo: There's a reason why older people playing Bingo is such a colloquialism. It's actually a very good brain activity to have to watch for those numbers, especially when they're doing it on several cards at once.
- Board Games and Playing Cards: Seniors may not have played Monopoly, Life, Solitaire, or Bridge since they were younger. Now is a great time for them to pick it up again, especially if they play with their grandkids.
- Telling Stories of Their Lives: It's not always as easy for seniors to recollect all the fabulous life stories they've had. They should be encouraged to record them on video or audio, or even write them down to encourage not only memory, but also writing, spelling, etc. It will also help younger generations to know where they came from, making this beneficial for multiple generations.
- Computer Activities: Computer activities can provide many benefits for seniors. Since it's still something relatively new to lots of seniors, many resist it. However, many of those activities and games described above can be done on a computer, providing a new angle on a time-tested favorite activity.
Pairing Physical and Mental Activities
The New England Journal of Medicine study mentioned above suggests that the majority of physical activities don't improve brain function. There is only one physical activity that was shown to improve brain function in the study: dancing. It can be as simple as doing a little dancing in the living room after dinner, or as organized as taking ballroom dance lessons.
To do a new mental activity and combine it with dance could be greatly beneficial for seniors. One such activity that would combine both would be the game Dance Dance Revolution. This is thought of as a young people's game, but it has so many benefits for seniors if they're up to it. It not only encourages their brains, but includes dancing skills as well.
It's important to remember that the majority of these activities can be done in pairs or groups, which will provide not only mental stimulation, but also social connections to seniors. Encourage the seniors in your life to get together for regular game nights or art activities to keep their minds sharp and their spirits high.