Visiting Angels, Barrington Blog

Five ways to keep your brain sharp and healthy

Our brains love to exercise, learn and connect. It’s what they were made to do, and the more exercise they get, the stronger, healthier and more astute they become. Life slows down as we age. In some ways, this may be a welcome change. But it’s a change that we want to manage and control every step of the way.

Just as we nourish and exercise our bodies to maintain their high function, we need to extend similar care to our brains. They also benefit from a healthy regimen of TLC.

Senior and crossword puzzle

Incorporating brain boosting activities into your weekly routine can positively impact your brain health. The National Institute on Aging reports: “Scientists think that such activities may protect the brain by establishing ‘cognitive reserve.’ They may help the brain become more adaptable in some mental functions, so it can compensate for age-related brain changes and health conditions that affect the brain.”

They may help the brain become more adaptable in some mental functions, so it can compensate for age-related brain changes and health conditions that affect the brain.”

Consider these activities to bolster your brain health.

Book club it

You don’t need a huge troop to form a book club. If you know a couple of book lovers who want to take turns picking a favorite read and meeting once a month to discuss it, that’s plenty. Book clubs are fun because they give you an end date for your reading. Plus, it’s exciting to have some friends with whom you can share your great observations, and you can enrich your understanding of the text by hearing what they have to say.

Plus, reading is good for your brain. Dr. Alan Castel, writing for Psychology Today explains “Lifelong reading, especially in older age, may be one of the secrets to preserving mental ability. In addition, remaining an avid reader into old age reduces memory decline by more than 30%, compared to engaging in other forms of mental activity. Those who read the most had the fewest physical signs of dementia.”

Belonging to a book club gives you a regular social engagement too. Which is nice to have on your mind and on your calendar.

Get on board

Put on your game face with puzzles, board games, card games, cross word puzzles, sudoku, mad libs - whatever mental workout you find fun and challenging. It’s stimulating and good for your brain. So, start a weekly or monthly card party, trivia night or Yahtzee club.

Playing online is also a good choice. There are plenty of online card, Scrabble and crossword games to choose from. Also, consider your local community center or senior center, where you may find card or bingo games that are open and available to you.

Find your game however you can; your brain will love it!

Mindful exercise

Yoga and Tai Chi are two examples of mindful exercise. They teach practitioners to synchronize breath and movement, which helps to calm the mind and the body. While both practices are physical, they focus on the relationship between mind, breath and body, creating a holistic experience.

Amy Norton, writing for Web MD, explains “Researchers found that even compared with other healthy, active women their age, yoga practitioners typically had greater cortical thickness in the brain's left prefrontal cortex.” This is thought to boost aging brains and support memory retention.

Yoga is also helpful because it helps manage daily stress in a productive way.

Learn

We are never too old to skill-build. It’s good for our souls and for our brains to put ourselves in the role of a student. This may mean taking a craft, art, acting or woodworking class at the community center or an exercise class at the Y. You may also consider signing up to audit a class at a local university or community college, where seniors are sometimes invited to sit in, free of charge.

Another thought: invite your Visiting Angels Caregiver to help you connect on social media through Visiting Angels’ Social Care. You have a lot to offer and a lot to learn. Put yourself out there and allow yourself to grow.

Write

You don’t have to be an award-winning superstar to produce content that will be meaningful to you and your family. Write your story and theirs. Use whatever format works for you. Write it. Type it. Get your notes down on paper.

Share your insights and memories about the war, the old neighborhood, the depression. You’ve seen some amazing things unfold during your lifetime. Chronicle those.

Your brain is precious. Celebrate it. Honor it. Care for it.

Each Visiting Angels agency is a franchise that is independently owned and operated. The Franchisor, Living Assistance Services Inc., does not control or manage the day to day business operations of any Visiting Angels franchised agency.