Seniors and Mental Fitness

It’s common knowledge that a proper exercise regimen can do wonders for the body. It should be no surprise, then, that the same principle applies to the mind.

The concept of “cognitive fitness” has become a buzzword among people who work with older adults to describe activities that stimulate the brain and improve memory.

Proponents of these programs claim this type of conditioning can prevent or postpone memory loss and the onset of other age-related cognitive disorders.

Scientists now know the human brain is able to continually adapt and rewire itself, even in old age. Contrary to popular myth, you do not lose mass quantities of brain cells as you age. Aside from cognitive disorders brought on by disease, most age-related losses in memory or motor skills simply result from inactivity and a lack of mental exercise and stimulation. In other words, use it or lose it!

The brain is a thinking organ that learns and grows by interacting with the world through perception and action. So what can we do to preserve and enhance mental fitness as we grow older? Just as weight lifting or jogging strengthen certain muscle groups, mental exercise builds brain muscle. A new study conducted over two decades concludes that exercise that challenges the mind even appears to ward off dementia, reducing the risk by as much as 75 percent. In another study, volunteers ages 65 and older who did just 10 hours of training sessions to improve their memory demonstrated mental abilities equivalent to people between seven and 14 years younger than those who did not.

Research shows that an aging adult who takes part in bingo and jigsaw puzzles continues to build neuropaths. Card games such as pinochle and bridge or board games of strategy such as chess or checkers are also good choices. So are crossword puzzles, anagrams, and other word games like Scrabble. Another aspect of mental stimulation is avoiding monotony and routine. Turn off the TV! Get out of that chair! The key to is be involved in activities and open yourself to others through dialogue, interaction and lively discussion.

Failing memory and sluggish thinking are not inevitable cohorts of aging. For more information about Highgate and the myriad ways we support our residents in keeping mentally fit and intellectually engaged, request more information today. 

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