Unfortunately, declining memory and overall cognitive decline can be a natural part of aging. In fact, although a lot of studies have focused on cognitive decline for those over the age of 60, studies have found that age-related cognitive decline begins in healthy, educated adults when they’re in their 20s and 30s. And although it’s normal, there are plenty of activities that keep senior minds active. Here are 10 of our favorite mind activities for seniors (that the whole family can enjoy!)
1. Stay active (and dance!)
There’s a lot of research that shows physical activity can help slow the aging process, especially in the mind. Even just a daily jaunt around the block can help. But one of the best ways to include physical activity while keeping senior minds active is to dance. Dancing combines movement, rhythm, and using your brain in several ways, and because there are so many different types of dance, it doesn’t matter how fit someone is to get moving.
Bonus: Learning a new dance counts as a new skill (see #4 below). So ask the grandkids to teach you the latest move from TikTok, put on a couple of YouTube tutorials, join a class, or just do a little boogie in the comfort and privacy of your own living room.
2. Take a new route
Our brains need stimulation to keep in peak condition; luckily, stimulating the brain can be as easy as taking a different route during your daily walk or while driving. When you take the same route day in and day out, it’s easy to find yourself on autopilot, and when you’re on autopilot, you’re not stimulating your brain. Just taking a new way home can make your brain more alert and stimulated.
3. Build your vocabulary
Did you know that learning a new word uses many regions of the brain, especially those in the visual and auditory processing region? And the great thing is, building your vocabulary is simple. Sites like Dictionary.com have a word of the day, but there are more analog ways of building your vocabulary, like writing down and looking up words as you read or simply flipping through a dictionary.
4. Learn a new skill
There’s never a bad time to learn a new skill, whether you’ve always wanted to learn a language, pick up a new hobby or start an indoor garden (plus, being around plants can help your mental and emotional well-being.) When you learn a new skill, you’re creating new pathways in your brain, which keeps your mind active and sharp.
5. Teach a skill
Whether it’s a new skill you just started or something you’ve done for the last 60 years, teaching a skill keeps your brain sharp as well. Why? When you’re teaching a skill, you need to use your brain to not only break down the basics, but address any issues the person you’re teaching may have. It’s like taking a new route: Teaching a skill helps you see it in a new light and aids your brain in developing new pathways.
6. Practice using your memory
Just like lifting weights builds your muscles, using your memory works out the neuro pathways. While there are many memory games out there, practicing using your memory can be as simple as recounting all the details in a story (what dishes were served during a dinner party? Who was there and where were they sitting?) or challenging yourself by naming the days of the week in alphabetical order.
7. Cook meals
There are so many ways in which cooking stimulates the brain. For one, it uses all five senses, which has been shown to use more of your brain, which strengthens the neuro pathways. Cooking also requires you plan, measure things out, physically move to combine ingredients, problem solve and adapt–all of which keeps your brain in shape.
8. Arts and crafts
Although the imagination is often encouraged more for children, the truth is, imagination and creativity strengthen your brain no matter what age you are. Arts and crafts allow you to try new things, break out of the norm, and get creative. What’s more, doing arts and crafts helps maintain dexterity in the hands and fingers.
9. Play games like bridge, jigsaw puzzles or trivia
Beyond being a fun use of time, playing games like bridge, jigsaw puzzles and trivia stimulate the brain by using memory, visualization and sequencing, and when played with a group, it provides a social connection that bolsters the effects.
10. Stay social
Not only does social engagement potentially support brain health, but it helps combat loneliness and depression—two things that have a negative effect on your brain. Staying social helps tie together many of the other ideas on this list: You spend time working on your memory while recounting stories, you’re learning new skills or facts, using all five senses and more. And because of technology, there are more ways to stay social than ever before, even if you can’t physically meet. Try joining a virtual book club, attend community events, or video chat with a loved one.
Whether you’re looking for activities for yourself or a loved one, there are so many ways to keep the senior mind active. At Cherrywood Pointe, keeping our senior residents’ brains engaged to promote overall wellness, is an important aspect of our work. From activities and programming to providing you with resources and social opportunities, we’re here to help.
For more information or to connect with one of our locations, feel free to send us a message.