Just as we need physical exercises to keep our bodies strong, we also need brain exercises to keep our brain strong. Of course, the key to any exercise program is finding something enjoyable! Here are six brain-boosting activities for seniors that are also a fun way to spend time:
Word games, like the classic board game Scrabble or the new online sensation Wordle, have much to offer seniors. Brains get a workout thanks to the necessity of word recall and reasoning. Physical games like Scrabble have the added benefit of combining these brain skills with fine motor skills. Plus, a little competition is always fun!
One of the most relaxing ways to exercise your brain may be enjoying a good read. From daily news articles to light-hearted beach reads, the act of processing information and comprehending sentences is a healthy challenge for the brain.
Card games like Solitaire and Rummy require memory, problem solving, and alternating attention. Plus, because new hands are dealt every time, the brains enjoy a new challenge every few minutes. Playing cards has the added bonus of being a great social activity, which brings with it additional mental exercise from engaging and conversing with friends.
Brains love puzzles! When putting a jigsaw puzzle together, the brain strengthens a variety of abilities including spatial orientation, organizing/sorting, and visual memory.
Writing in a daily journal is a helpful practice to declutter the brain in order to maximize attention, as well as facilitate information processing and reflect/improve mindfulness.
Pairing Physical & Mental Activities
The brain loves to work together with the body! One great way to do so is to pair mental tasks related to sequencing with simple physical activities. For example, counting or reciting the alphabet while taking a quiet walk benefits focused attention and the ability to sequence information. Once a combination is mastered, challenge the brain further by changing the pattern, such as counting while alternating with reciting letters of the alphabet.
How Activities Boost Memory
Memory is not something we simply have or don’t have. “Memory is a process,” explains Emily Eckhardt, MA, CCC-SLP, CDP, with EmpowerMe Wellness’ Clinical Programming and Education department. “To build and maintain memory, our brains need to exercise all the steps connected to that process.” Memory requires the ability to focus, process, interpret, organize, consolidate, and recall information. If any of the steps in this process are impaired, memory may become impaired.
A key aspect of boosting brain health and memory is the ability to focus and maximize attention. To be fully attentive requires one to organize, relax, and concentrate – which is often easier said than done! The ability to be fully attentive and focused strengthens the brain and its capacity for memory. On that same note, distraction negatively impacts memory. Brain health and memory are served well by avoiding things or activities that are cluttered, busy, stressful, or bring anxiety.
Through its “The Focused Mind” program, EmpowerMe Wellness team members help senior living residents maintain cognitive ability. To learn more, reach out to EmpowerMe today.