Staying Sharp in Our Senior Years
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is about more than just your physical body (although looking after that is extremely important). For complete, holistic health, it’s important to take care of the most important part of the body -- your brain.
As we get older, we need to pay especially close attention to our mental strength. Like any muscle that goes without exercise, your brain can get weaker if not used and trained. And to ensure the most fruitful senior years, it’s essential to take every opportunity to keep your memory strong. And it’s not just about memory -- being sharp requires quick reasoning, the ability to process new information and strong cognitive functions.
Luckily, there are plenty of games, activities and practices that are readily available that have useful benefits for maintaining and enhancing our mental acuity. If done regularly, they can boost your memory, mental sharpness, and make your senior years all the more enjoyable.
Here’s what you need to know:
One of the primary concerns seniors have is preserving their memory. As we get older, keeping memories can be more difficult, especially in the short term. That’s why finding ways to maintain (and even improve) memory is so important.
Learn a new skill:
Everyone’s heard the saying about “old dogs and new tricks” -- but it couldn’t be less true for pups or people. Age does not mean that learning new skills is impossible. In fact, for maintaining a healthy memory, taking time to learn something new will help keep and even improve your short term memory. It could be as simple as picking up a musical instrument for the first time, or teaching yourself to complete a Sudoku. Or it could be something more challenging, like learning a completely new language just for the sake of it. Whatever you choose to pursue, taking time to continue learning is an essential practice when it comes to memory.
Make and remember lists:
Lists are a handy tool for folks whose memory isn’t what it used to be. When items are on paper, you can refer to it without worrying something might slip your mind. But they can also be an opportunity to improve and maintain your memory. Next time you make a grocery list, or a list of good birthday gift ideas, take time to recite it back to yourself without looking, and see how far you get. Practice with every list you make, and it’s likely you’ll start finding it easier every time. Training your brain to memorize list items will be a useful skill for remembering other things in your life.
Take a course:
Whether you attended college before or not, finding new ways to educate yourself is a great idea, especially if you want to improve your memory. But for seniors with mobility issues, the thought of driving to the hustle and bustle of a local class can be daunting. Luckily, over the last few years online college courses have grown in prominence and popularity. They’re easy to access and often free, and can help you expand your education and strengthen your memory. Plus, the best part is they can be taken from the comfort of your kitchen table! Take time to consider what you want to learn more about, and then use the internet (or ask someone to help) find a course that fits your interest.
For General Mental Sharpness
Having a good memory doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able keep sharp. In this context, sharpness means how quick your wit is, how easy it is to hold a conversation, and how adeptly you can understand new situations and concepts.
Believe it or not, exercising your body can be just as important as mental exercise when it comes to keeping your mind sharp. Establishing a healthy fitness routine in your youth is ideal, but even if it’s your first time exercising, you can benefit from the better blood flow and more oxygen that an exercise routine can provide. For seniors, it’s important not to over exert your body, but finding opportunities to take walks, ride a stationary bike, swim or do other low-impact exercise is a great first step for preserving your mental acuity.
Engage in Socialization:
When it comes to staying sharp, there’s little better than chatting with others and staying social. This could be with family members or friends, and could be as simple as catching up about your day. But if you’re feeling adventurous, pick an interesting current event and have an in depth conversation with someone in your social circle. This will help you train your reasoning skills, help you practice critical thinking, and allow you to absorb new information. Modern technology has greatly improved how easy it is to socialize -- even for house-bound seniors, video calls available on all mobile devices means you can chat face to face with nearly anyone you like from anywhere.
Getting the Right Amount of Sleep:
Establishing a sleep cycle that works for you is essential when considering your mental sharpness. Studies consistently show that anything less than seven hours per night can have negative effects on memory, leave you groggy, and impair your cognitive functions. If you’re not getting seven hours, consider adjusting your schedule accordingly. On the flip side, too much sleep can lead to a host of medical problems including headaches and back pain, so try to find a routine that leaves your well rested, without going overboard. If you find it difficult to sleep in the evening consider your napping habits -- sometimes a cheeky afternoon nap can make for a restless night where sleep is most important.
Part of a healthy lifestyle includes taking care of your mind, and that means finding ways to train it like you would your body. As we get older, finding ways to preserve and enhance our quality of life become increasingly important, which is why training your brain to keep your memory strong and retain your mental sharpness is so essential -- it will ensure your senior years are as memorable and special as they should be.