Not Just Seniors
Not Just Seniors: Everyone Needs to Stimulate Their Minds and Keep them Active and Alert
Many studies have been done which indicate seniors and adults participating frequently in brain activities can slow various forms of dementia. Games, which involve acuity, concentration, and focus, enhance the brain’s capability to stimulate and use brain cells and keep neural pathways open and functioning.
Card games, board games, brainteasers, crossword puzzles, and my favorite Sudoku, are some games that will help geriatric patients to maintain and stimulate their minds.
I decided to be proactive and ask people in my apartment complex and some of my friends and family what they do each day to keep their minds active and brains stimulated. Several said that they walk and they read the newspapers. Some stated that they watch the History Channel
None of the people that I asked did anything different than they always do. Not one stated that they tried to learn something new in a different field or area that they never learned before. Not one stated that they would even try and vary their daily routines or schedules in order to change it up or try and vary their habits.
One of my family members even said that she prefers reading romance novels and some mysteries and would never try reading one of the books that I found stimulating or interesting when I reviewed it.
None of the people that I spoke with would even go to a museum or art gallery to learn about painters or different works of art. I love going to the Met or the Moma or any museum where I can immerse myself in the art, culture, or history of a country or time period.
Many of these people preferred going to musicals or shows but none to anything that required heavy thought or thinking. That is not to say that they would get early or late-onset dementia, but it does say that they are not doing a lot to delay it.
For everyone not just seniors the following activities are really great and might charge your brain and keep it going on what I call high power instead of low voltage:
- Card games
- Board games
- Crossword puzzles: some with categories
- Word Finds
- Math puzzles and word scrambles
- Cognitive function skills that involve reasoning, problem solving and memory
- Concentration is a great card game
- Bingo with words and numbers
- Jigsaw puzzles are great
- Chess or checkers
- Chinese checkers
- Trivial pursuit
- Group interaction games
- The Wii combines mental and physical activity. Personally, I love bowling. It is great for eye-hand coordination.
- Dancing is great and dance instruction
The main thought behind mentally stimulating games is to slow down, according to an article in Boomers: Stimulating Mind and Brain Games for Seniors, the degeneration of neurotransmitters and to increase the growth of new brain cells. Brain cells do develop and grow during every stage from birth until death. According to this article, the brain is always and continually learning new skills, tasks, and activities and is one of the best ways to keep the mind active.
What is Right For You?
Whether you choose board games or other games for yourself or an elderly parent, you need to make sure that you choose one that matches the person’s mental acuity and state of health. Many seniors would rather play solitary games and work crosswords, math games, and independent mind games rather than participate in group activities. Other puzzles such as cryptograms, anagrams, and draggers where you have to take the pieces of a picture and put them in the right order to create the whole picture itself are just some mind stimulating games or ways to keep your brain active.
Another is what’s the word, where you get the definition and you have to figure out the word. Not as easy as you might think. You can even get puzzle books that have many different types of math, word, vocabulary, and other types of games and puzzles that you can do alone, with your parent or your parent alone.
Patients or parents with dementia may prefer or benefit from games that provide a calming interaction together with music. Some of these people even enjoy games that require sorting activities. You might even encourage them to sort items to for the laundry into colors, whites, or hot or cold items.
If you limit your activities and what you do you do nothing to stimulate your thinking skills or your brain you might bring on dementia earlier than someone who does mind-stimulating exercises and games, exercise, and more on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, no matter how we try to stop it everyone is going to age at some time in his or her life. But each person ages in different ways. Some of us begin to complain of body aches, some people start to become forgetful and others, when this happens to them, seem to think that the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease is about to overtake their mind and body. Not always the case.
Mild degrees of forgetfulness are common in everyone. But, as we age and get older, we seem to focus our attention on such forgetfulness when it comes to the elderly. Everyone forgets things at one time or another. It does not necessarily mean that you have dementia or even the first stages of Alzheimer’s.
In order to stop the progression or delay the progression, of such related conditions as osteoporosis, arthritis, and overall physical strength, activity is necessary.
So, what should you do to delay the onset of this disease and let it know that you are in charge and will do everything you can to delay it:
- Keep your muscles and joints healthy and strong, which will help, maintain your range of motion.
- People that are 60 and over should be able to exercise and perform weight-bearing exercises that help to prevent lean muscle mass loss or loss or range of motion or strength.
- Elderly parents that exercise might find that their brains more alert and active.
- Even though we lose some brain cell activity and speed, as we age, does not mean that adults over 70 don’t score just as high on memory tests as people that are younger.
- Elderly parents who are active both physically and mentally tend to live longer with a quality of life that may surprise many who believed that once you attain a certain age.
- At home and away you can have fun and keep your mind and your parent’s minds up and going by playing board games, card games, talking, chess, checkers and choosing a topic from the newspaper and using it for a lively discussion.
- On vacation you can go to the casino, you can dance, you can participate in community groups and outings and go to the movies or a show.
- Join a walking group.
- Hobbies like planting, stamp or coin collecting are fun too.
- Playing or learning a language or an instrument is fun too or taking a music or art class.
It is as I have learned all in your mindset or attitude. I think young and refuse to act my age, whatever that might be, and I dress the way I want and interact with everyone, not just people my own age.
Being self-sufficient, having a sense of empowerment and choosing what you want to do each day is one way to keep active and your mind alert. Stress can cause you to feel sick, tired and enhance pain both mental and physical. It can cause heart problems and high blood pressure too.
Walk, exercise, interact, laugh, play, have a sense of humor and my favorite: Smile and let the world know that you are here and here to stay!
Do not let age get you down and not listen, as I never do to anyone that says: You are old or getting old. It is just a number like your blood pressure, your weight, your shoe size or dress or pants size: You can adjust all of these and stay healthy.
As far as age: I refuse to deal with it and I never divulge it even when asked and then I make up a number between 21 and 39. Whatever number comes to mind and I say out loud, that is my age for the day. It keeps me feeling younger, alert and happy. I learned something: If you reveal your age and act it: then you might just feel old. Live life and enjoy each day. I DO!
The resources for these sections came from the following sources:
- Boomers with Elderly Parents: Stimulating Mind and Brain Games for Seniors.
- Mental Fitness Exercises to Keep Your Mind Sharp.
Staying fit and eating right is vital to keeping your mind sharp and alert. But, exercising your brain and doing mental exercises will help fight off memory loss and other mental ailments that can plague you when you get older:
- If you are right-handed try using your left hand to do common things like eating, washing dishes, brushing your teeth or combing your hair.
- Shop without a list: We make lists and that often makes things too simple for us. Shopping without a list will help you concentrate more when going to the supermarket and not coast those aisles without any thought to what you are doing or buying. Go to the store without a list and see how many items you remember to buy or hide the list from view. I have done this and what I do is go to each section of the market and get what I know that I need in each area. That is an organized way to start without a list. You can also walk up and down each aisle and get what you need. You might even save money by doing this because you do not have a list and that list might have items you just really don’t need.
- Conversation: Social networking and text messaging is something I do daily. It is great to call friends and have discussion groups about current events and other topics in the paper. Join a discussion group or just call a friend and really listen to what that person is saying before considering your response.
- Read New Books: If you read fiction read history or biographies. Reading new things expands your mind, giving you a great mental workout.
- Exercise your body: If you exercise your body it will also keep your brain alert and active. Studies show that regular exercise fights depression, reduces stress, and improves self-confidence. All of these things help your mind operate more efficiently.
- Change Your Daily Routine: Do not continue to do things as second nature. Change your daily routine by going to work a different way, eating something different for breakfast, taking your breaks at different times during the day or coming home and relaxing after work. You might want to meet someone for dinner or join a club that meets weekly. Change up your life and your routine.
- Start a Project: I learned that when I decided to change careers that I would have to think long and hard about what I wanted to do with my life that would keep my mind alert and on its toes. I decided to write children’s books, poems and of course the two on Alzheimer’s. Learning about the illness and different aspects of it has really expanded my knowledge of how hard it is to deal with the disease not only for the family but also, for the person diagnosed with it. Projects give you a purpose if you do something productive. I also review books for three sites on the web and private authors upon request. I have read books on topics that I would never think to read or take out of the library. Learning about dissociative disorder, railroad magnets, menopause, dieting plans and many other areas including two biographies that turned out to be quite interesting and informative. I read an interesting book about abuse and how it affected the author and her life plus the true story of the Gerald Schaffer murders in Florida.
Projects force you to complete a large task over a period of time. You might even organize a timeline of when you will begin the project, as I do, and when you hope to have it completed. Target dates often help when starting a project and a date for its completion helps too.
- Use your other senses: The ultimate goal of course if mental fitness exercises to stimulate all of your senses. There are several ways you can do this. You can enjoy a meal and try to identify all of the ingredients as you chew. You can try eating with your eyes closed although you might make a mess in the process. If your senses are sharp, your mind will be too. You might even try and have a partner experiment together with you. Take some foods that are hard and cover your eyes and see if you can figure out what they are as you eat or taste them. You might even try things with distinctive tastes to enhance your sense of smell and taste.
- Pay Attention to Little Details: When you walk into a room, take notice of how it is decorated and little items that are there. When you meet someone, take notice of what they are wearing and try to remember their entire outfit and appearance. This constant attention to detail means your mind will be working.
- Expand your vocabulary: Learning new words do not just make you sound smart; it keeps your mind fit and alert.
- Ditch the Calculator: stop making things so easy for yourself, Put your math skills to the test by getting rid of the calculator and using the old fashion pencil and paper. Try solving complex math problems in your head with no help and then refigure the answers out using a pencil and paper.
- Play a Game: Video games do not make your brain rot! Strategy-based games, like Halo, can be highly effective at exercising your problem-solving skills. The same thing goes for board games. Mental fitness can be fun. My favorite is Monopoly, chess, checkers, and scenic.
- Try Multitasking: If you have seen the show Distraction, you know how hard it is to perform simple tasks when there are other things pulling at your attention. Multitasking is like a full-body workout, but for your brain.
- Change careers and start a new one.