Exercise the brain – the body may be aging, but keeping the aging brain active will keep you healthy. And healthy seniors are happy seniors! Here is all you need to know about keeping your brain in top form.
Just as regular physical exercise is required for a healthy, fit and strong body; mental exercise is essential to remain healthy seniors. Ageing is usually associated with several physical and mental disabilities, reducing the general quality of life for seniors. Although these disabilities cannot be completely avoided, their occurrence can be significantly delayed.
Mental problems such as lethargic thinking, memory loss, reduced cognition, absent mindedness and poor judgment are common. Severe mental illnesses such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and amnesia can spoil any chances of well- being or a healthy and happy life. Senior health and fitness is about the mind and body.
It’s important to keep mental control – a healthy mind heeds to a healthy seniors soul. If we keep the brain active and continue to use our minds to our best ability, our state of mental health will be healthy, contributing to a better state of well-being.
Why is mental health important to remain healthy seniors?
It is imperative to use the brain to accomplish a variety of tasks. Several exercises can jog the memory, keeping it strong and functioning properly. The brain is magnificent, full of potential and programmed not only for our body movements and verbal ability, but for several other functions including remembering events, logical analysis, perception, structure and shape recognition and sensory representation. Think of the mind like a computer – we can take on functions and tasks, but we must keep updating the software. Without the use of the brain, we cannot function. Just because our body is growing old, it doesn’t mean our mind has to reflect. Brain exercises aim to enhance all areas of the mind, which tend to diminish over time. Both physical and mental exercise is key for healthy seniors.
Mental health exercises for healthy seniors
The following exercises, if performed by seniors will maintain cerebral fitness by building new brain cells and keeping the mind alive:
• Improving memory – There are four main types of memory, short term, long term, visual and auditory, which seniors should work on.
a) Short-term memory – This type of memory is a volatile working memory, lasting only for a few seconds or minutes. If someone utters a statement, you can remember the exact contents of the statement for a brief period of time. To improve this memory, remain aware and pay attention when people are speaking. Remember or recall specific words spoken by an individual.
b) Long-term memory – This type of memory can last for days, weeks and even years. To improve this type, try to memorize a statement or a list of unrelated objects, and then recall them after a week or a month. A great way to do this is to make it a game. Why not play the memory game with your grandchildren? It benefits both you and them.
c) Visual memory – This type of memory is used to remember objects or people we see. To improve this type, try to remember faces of strangers, or new people you meet, along with their names. Try recalling the image of the face associated with each name. You can even try this with different objects. Again, grandchildren will love this. On car rides, you can recall the many things you see as you go along giving points to the one who remembers most.
d) Auditory memory – This type of memory helps you remember what you have heard. To improve this memory, listen to a speech or news on the radio, and try to understand the meaning. Try to recall the news or speech after a few days. When listening to music, try singing along the words to keep your memory active.
• Logical analysis – This function of the brain is used to rationalize and draw logical conclusions. Games such as crosswords, puzzles, jumbles, Sudoku, card games, word puzzles and strategy games improve logical abilities. Play Chess, bridge, checkers or Mahjong to improve this ability.
• Verbal ability – This function helps you speak or write correctly using appropriate words. You will need to pick words stored in long-term memory, and use them in the short-term context. Try thinking of synonyms and antonyms of any word, and form correct statements. Try to write the gist of the book you have recently read.
• Time-space distinction – This function helps you to distinguish between past, present and future, and near and far objects. Try to remember an event from the past. Think of your goals in the future, and observe events occurring in your present. Pick an object in the room, close your eyes, and think of how near of far it is from you. • Structure and shape recognition – This function helps you determine the shape and structure of an object. To improve this type, solve jigsaw puzzles in minimum possible time.
How to apply healthy mind activities in daily life
Studies have also shown that video games can help seniors’ hand-eye co-ordination as well as improve their mental sharpness. Healthy seniors are those who think outside the box and look for fun ways to keep active. What more of a fun way to keep the brain active than to play with your grandchildren?
Try out a game on the Nintendo Wii called Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree. This includes competitive games involving memory, quick thinking, numbers and visual recognition.