Many of us have experienced “a senior moment”, when a bit of information, such as why we entered a room, momentarily slips from our memory! We do not have to conclude that aging will necessarily lead to ever increasing memory lapses; in fact, your brain continues to create new neurons throughout life. The challenge is to give them an adequate workout! This is true for a healthy brain, as well as a brain affected by one of the forms of dementia. Regular cognitive workouts benefit everyone.
What is a cognitive workout? A study at Rush University reported in the journal Neurology found that pleasurable pursuits like chess, checkers, crossword and jigsaw puzzles, reading a newspaper, or attending a play were all examples of brain stimulating activities. (No, watching TV does not count, unless perhaps you are shouting out the answers on Jeopardy!) One of our clients clips the newspaper feature every morning that challenges her to find slight differences between two pictures. She can usually beat her Cascade Companion Care caregiver in locating them all!
You might be surprised to learn that exercising your brain can be as simple as changing a common pattern. Neurologists at the Franklin Institute have found that something as simple as using your non-dominant hand for some activities can stimulate the brain. Try eating and brushing your teeth tonight with your non-dominant hand! If you always take the same route when shopping, suggest to your family member or companion that it’s time for a new route! The change of scenery actually stimulates new connections in your brain!
Researchers have also found that brain activity is stimulated when we engage all of our senses. The website Livestrong.com highlights colors, scents, flavors, scenery, textures, and rhythms – they all have the power to create new neural pathways. If you always listen to classical music, an afternoon at a jazz concert might really jazz up those brain cells!
Many seniors have a deep repository of hymns in their memory. Occupational therapists have learned that we remember things better when they are set to music, so tapping this rich memory source by singing or playing much-loved music is a powerful memory booster.
Ask your Cascade Companion Care caregiver to get out the Scrabble board, bring you a good library book, take you somewhere you have never been, or cook you something from a new cuisine. It will not only make life more interesting, it will keep your brain happily creating new memories and connections!