Busy Hands, Healthy Mind: Advice for Seniors on Staying Mentally Active
Healthcare providers frequently emphasize the need for older patients to stay physically fit as they age and to beware the dangers of settling into a sedentary lifestyle. Yet, the aging process makes it equally important to remain mentally sharp by finding new ways to stimulate the brain by building new neural pathways. Keeping these neural inroads active and creating new brain cells helps slow the effects of an aging brain. There are many ways to keep your brain limber, such as pursuing a long-held interest or identifying a new one. It could be something as simple and commonplace as doing crossword puzzles or reading a book, or something more personally ambitious, such as starting a new business.
The need to keep learning doesn’t cease when you cross the stage and accept that diploma. Lifelong learning is an ongoing investment in your intellectual development and mental fitness. Try challenging yourself with something that’s beyond your experience, such as learning a foreign language or taking up a musical instrument, activities that enhance cognitive functioning and improve memory. An increasing number of older adults take courses online these days, just for fun or as part of a degree program.
Go Into Business
If you have an entrepreneurial inclination, pursuing it can do your intellectual health a great deal of good. Going into business for yourself means developing business ideas and strategy based on a specific market niche or opportunity. As an entrepreneur, you’re always challenged to find new and creative ways to take a product to market and gain a competitive advantage over your competitors. Consider the opportunities presented by popular products like selfie drones, HIIT equipment, or Smartwatches. If you require start-up funding, there are a number of loan options available (SBA, term, etc.) to help get you up and running.
Studies have shown that volunteering in the community is an excellent way for seniors to improve cognitive functioning. Volunteering is particularly beneficial to memory and the brain’s processing capabilities, which are involved in absorbing and retaining information. As a volunteer, you are asked to follow directions, resolve problems and, above all, stay active, which works the brain’s memory and processing capacities. Being a volunteer makes you feel good and instills a sense of accomplishment that’s important for one’s well-being and self-esteem.
Get a Hobby
Mayo Clinic researchers have recently announced that engaging in a creative hobby can prevent the onset of dementia and aid the functioning of memory. Painting, woodworking, pottery, creative writing, and music are highly creative pursuits that keep the brain functioning at a high level and help stave off the deleterious effects of mental aging. The study, which was published in the journal Neurology, also found that creative social pursuits, such as concerts, musical performances, movies, book clubs and travel, even computer-based hobbies like video games and online shopping, have a beneficial effect on the brain. A leading neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic has said research data indicates that mental and social engagement have a definite bearing on whether one will acquire dementia later in life.
Activities that draw on hand-eye coordination will get your brain working at a high level. You don’t need to paint a masterpiece or do a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. Simple activities such as tossing a Frisbee can engage the brain in beneficial ways. If you’re looking for something new, try learning sign language or take up crochet.
Maintaining good health in one’s senior years is all about activity, mental as well as physical. Finding new and stimulating activities keeps you interested and engaged in learning and developing new skills that help keep the brain healthy and active.
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