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10 Proven Mind-Stimulating Tips for Seniors

By Merritt WhitleyDecember 9, 2021
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Just as exercise improves your physical health, brain workouts strengthen your mind — boosting your memory and thinking skills. Even better, it’s never too late to begin exercising your most important muscle. Read on for 10 easy ways to stimulate your mind.

1. Stick to an exercise routine

Your mind and body are interconnected. Often, what benefits the body benefits the brain. Regular exercise, even taking a simple walk, goes a long way toward improving your memory and cognitive skills, according to Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.

In fact, the foot’s impact during a walk sends pressure waves through the arteries, increasing blood flow and resulting in a healthier mind, according to researchers at New Mexico Highlands University. Try adding some of these physical activities to your daily or weekly routine to boost blood flow to your brain:

  • hiking on nearby nature trails
  • tennis or pickleball
  • walking your dog
  • yoga or tai chi
  • water aerobics 

2. Make reading a habit

In a study in the journal Neurology, regular reading and writing in late life reduced the rate of memory decline by 32%.

Here are some great ways to make reading more of a habit:

  • Join or start a book club through your church, temple, local library, or bookstore.
  • Read to your grandchildren in person or via FaceTime or Skype.
  • Subscribe to a favorite magazine or local newspaper.
  • Set aside a time each day for reading.
  • Read only what you like — it’s okay to give up and choose something else. 

3. Write frequently

Writing improves working memory and communication abilities. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you write because simply expressing yourself will boost your brain activity. These creative writing exercises can jump-start your creative energy.

Have fun, and enjoy a brain workout by writing one of the following:

  • poetry
  • creative stories
  • song lyrics
  • handwritten letters
  • emails
  • blog posts
  • cards

4. Eat a healthy diet

You may know that nuts, fish, and red wine have been linked to a healthy brain, but reducing sugar intake can help stimulate your mind, too.

For an extra brain boost, Harvard Health suggests including these foods in your diet:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, is filled with Omega-3 fatty acids, which are major building blocks of the brain.
  • Tea and coffee can improve alertness and focus. It’s rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, and its caffeine can help solidify new memories.
  • Walnuts are high in protein and healthy fats, which can help improve memory and have been linked to lower blood pressure and cleaner arteries.
  • Berries have antioxidants and flavonoids that can help significantly delay memory decline.

5. Strive for good posture

If your parent or teachers told you to sit up straight, they were right — maintaining an upright posture improves circulation and blood flow to the brain.

Here are three ways to improve your posture:

  • Sleep with your spine aligned: Sleeping on your back or side is generally less stressful on your spine, according to Cleveland Clinic. With back-sleeping, gravity keeps your body centered over your spine. If you sleep on your side, try to keep your head in a neutral posture with your chin straight ahead.
  • Improve your balance: Staying balanced reduces the risk of falls and benefits the spine. Try online or in-person yoga for beginners classes to improve balance.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Carrying extra weight adds stress to your muscles and makes it more difficult to maintain proper posture.

6. Get plenty of sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), sleep deprivation can put you at greater long-term risk of physical and mental health problems, including reduced attention span, worsened memory, and mood changes. Memories and newly learned skills move to more permanent regions of the brain while you sleep. This makes them easier to recall.

Adults 65 and older should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night, says the NSF. If you’re between the ages of 26 and 64, seven to nine hours nightly is a good goal.

Struggling to fall or stay asleep? Try these tips:

  • Stay consistent: Pick a bedtime and stick with it — a routine will help you sleep better overall. This also includes setting a regular time to wake up on weekends.
  • Avoid heavy food: Large serving sizes can irritate your stomach, causing you to lose sleep. Instead, when you’re hungry at night, have small snacks like nuts or slices of fruit. Other foods to help you sleep include oatmeal, herbal teas, and warm milk with honey.
  • Limit alcohol and stimulants: Try to avoid alcoholic drinks and stimulants like coffee, cola, cigarettes, and chocolate for up to four to six hours before bed.
  • Exercise regularly: Daily physical activity can help healthy adults fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

7. Play games or draw

Paint, color an adult coloring book, or grab a pen and paper and draw. Whether it’s a masterpiece or a mere doodle, making something artistic is an intellectual workout.

Games are another simple way to sharpen and stimulate your mind. Here are a few mind-stimulating games for seniors to enjoy with their loved ones:

8. Listen to music or play an instrument

Many people find listening to or playing music enjoyable, but that’s not the only benefit — it also improves memory function in older adults, according to a 2019 study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Finding your favorite tunes or learning to read or play music is easier than ever thanks to versatile platforms and technology:

  • YouTube: A classic way to search for your favorite songs, music videos, or instrument tutorials. You can listen to your favorite songs while learning to play them.
  • Spotify: A popular platform that includes new and older songs from all around the world. Create playlists easily, and listen to your favorite songs anytime you want.
  • Pandora:Stream music for free and check out new artists or song recommendations. You can easily discover new music based on artists you already like and build your catalog.
  • Take lessons:Schedule a lesson online or in-person with an instructor at a price that works for you. Group lessons are available, too, so you can learn with loved ones.

9. Learn a foreign language

Even if international travel isn’t in your plans, learning a new language can be beneficial. It improves cognitive functioning in older adults, according to a review of several studies in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Duolingo and Babble are both fun and effective virtual options for practicing a new language.

10. Find a new hobby

Learning a craft or skill can stimulate your mind, relieve boredom, and liven up your daily routine. Many colleges and senior centers offer engaging, low-cost lectures and classes for older adults. Whether you’re learning a new recipe or beefing up your computer skills, ongoing education is a surefire way to stay sharp.  

Try out any of these mind-stimulating activities:

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  • carpentry
  • sewing
  • gardening
  • cooking
  • knitting
  • photography
  • fishing
  • golfing
  • swimming

Although there are no clinically proven ways to reverse the course of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, these tips may help combat normal, age-related mental decline. By continuing to find unique ways to stimulate your brain, you increase the odds your brain will thrive for years to come.

Sources:

Cleveland Clinic. “Back, Side or Stomach: Which Sleep Position Is Best for You?”

Frontiers in Psychology“Cognitive Benefits From a Musical Activity in Older Adults.”

Harvard Health Publishing. “Foods linked to better brainpower.”

National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD).“Posture is Essential to Balance and Function.”

Nutrients“Relationship of Wine Consumption with Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Sleep Foundation. “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

Sleep Foundation. “Memory and Sleep.”

National Sleep Foundation. “Sleep Deprivation.”

Neurology“Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging.”

ScienceDaily. “How walking benefits the brain.”

Author
Merritt Whitley

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