We all want to keep our brain sharp as we get older. What works best? Tasks that use the senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste – are more stimulating to the brain and get remembered better. The more senses you engage, the stronger the memory.
The brain needs novelty, too, so shake up your routine by trying something different. Use your non-dominant hand to put those jigsaw puzzle pieces together. Give up the crossword for a week and do sudoku instead. Anytime we learn something new, even a simple task, the brain is prompted to grow new neurons and make new connections.
Research shows that puzzles and online challenges are fun and helpful, but the two best potions for brain health are exercise and socialization. So include friends whenever you can and take that 30-minute walk around the block each day.
Fun Activities for Brain Health
Form teams or play individually. Have someone make a list of something (or find them online) like mammals or types of cars, read the list outloud and see who can recall the most items the fastest an hour later.
Learn the lyrics to a new song and sing it, or take a class to learn to play a musical instrument.
Not ready for the violin or the piano? Try the harmonica. It’s easy to make it sound good and is great for the lungs.
Add it up. Or subtract. Or multiply.
Tackle math problems on paper or in your head for a greater challenge. School workbooks, available at any book store, are a good source of questions. Try the math word problems, too.
Use paper and pen to keep a journal, write poetry, make grocery lists, or send letters to friends and family.
Writing will stimulate a variety of senses, and can help you remember lists.
Use telephone apps and computer programs to play online games or communicate with distant friends.
Make an effort to learn new apps or programs regularly.
Spend time in the kitchen.
Cooking is a top brain exercise for seniors, as it involves all five senses and often leads to socialization. Try new recipes you find online or in your cookbooks. Invite a partner to help you with the preparation.
Use your non-dominant hand for everyday tasks.
Brush your hair or teeth with it. Use it for your computer mouse. Every time you ask your opposite hand to do something it hasn’t done for decades, you challenge the brain to make new connections. Try it. It’s frustrating but fun.
Create a gorgeous painting, or try to copy someone else’s classic artwork.
Or better yet, make it a ladies’ night out by taking a Painting with a Twist class.
A sketching that’s fetching.
Make a black-and-white pencil drawing of your beautiful grandchild, your favorite food, or an extravagant building.
Knitting is an excellent and soothing hobby. It provides mathematic and spatial challenges to the brain, uses several senses, and can be social. Knitting will strengthen your hand-to-eye coordination, finger movements, and development of patterns.
Sample new foods with your eyes closed and then try to identify the ingredients all the way down to the spices.
Closing the eyes, forces us to rely on taste and smell even more, enhancing the experience.
Play traditional board games or cards with your friends or family members.
Touching these items and moving game pieces provides for a multisensory experience that builds tactical and memory skills. Conversation stimulates the brain, too.
Care for a pet.
Pets have a soothing effect on us, decreasing blood pressure, lowering heart rates and bringing a state of calm contentment that can improve blood flow to the brain. Caring for a pet also requires feeding, bathing, and giving it (and you!) exercise.
If gardening is among your favorite hobbies, good for you! It allows you to reap all the benefits from the sun and being outdoors; improves memory and organization skills; and can be a stress-relieving activity that leads to an improvement in mood and brain health. Remember your sunscreen.
Solve a puzzle.
Jigsaw puzzles are challenging to the brain and a great social activity. Another good task is visual puzzles that ask you to find the differences between two pictures that seem identical, or finding Waldo (remember him?) in a complex drawing. These improve visual discrimination, so our eye can find what’s important in all the chaos around us. We need this skill to be good drivers, so keep it strong.
So simple yet so effective: Just read. Read a romance novel. Read a children’s book. Read the news. Read the dictionary. Read an auto repair manual. Just read.
Experience Life at Waltonwood
Our Waltonwood communities are developed with your health and wellness in mind. That’s why we offer a variety of fitness programs for every level, tasty and nutritious meals, an interactive brain health program, and a variety of social activities that combine to boost the overall mental and physical health of our residents.
To learn more, contact us through our Waltonwood website.