Tag Archive for: brain health

a senior couple doing a puzzle

Staying Sharp: Everyday Cognitive Exercises for Seniors

As we age, staying sharp and keeping our brain in top shape becomes more important. Cognitive exercises are a bit like a workout for your brain — they keep the mental muscles flexible and strong. This is extra important for seniors who, all too often, do not have the same level of daily mental stimulation they enjoyed in their working years.

Here’s a list of easy and enjoyable daily cognitive exercises specific for seniors. These activities not only help keep the brain active but also provide a sense of accomplishment and joy. Engaging in such exercises can benefit cognitive functions, memory, processing speed, and could even reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

1. Puzzle Mania

Puzzles are an excellent way for seniors to improve their cognitive skills. Jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, crosswords, and word searches are all fantastic for stimulating problem-solving and logic. Here are a few specific ideas to get started:

  • Jigsaw Puzzles: These exercises in spatial awareness and pattern recognition can be done alone or with a friend, making them great for alone time or social bonding.
  • Sudoku and Crosswords: These numerical and linguistic puzzles challenge different parts of the brain and can be found in newspapers or books, providing a daily activity that’s as engaging as it is portable.
  • Word Search: A word search puzzle can be a fun way to improve cognitive functions related to language processing and attention to detail.

2. Learn Something New

Continuous learning is key to keeping the brain agile, and it’s never too late to pick up a new hobby or skill. For seniors, this could be learning a new language, mastering a musical instrument, or taking up a craft like knitting or woodworking.

  • Language Learning: Online language apps offer courses specific for all ages, giving bite-sized lessons that can be done at your own pace.
  • Music Lessons: Learning to play a new instrument not only exercises the memory and spatial-temporal skills, but it’s also a wonderful way to express creativity.
  • Crafting: Hobbies like knitting and woodworking involve complex, multistep processes that keep the mind focused and engaged.

3. Memory March

Engaging in a daily activity that requires memorization can significantly enhance cognitive abilities, specifically memory and recall.

  • Memorize a Poem or Speech: Select a favorite piece or a short, inspiring speech and try to commit it to memory, repeating it daily to strengthen your retention.
  • Recall a Day’s Schedule: Try to remember the day’s activities and appointments without looking at your calendar. This is a practical way to sharpen your short-term memory.
  • Remembering Names: Practice associating names with faces and objects to improve recall in social settings, a small but useful exercise that pays dividends in real-world situations.

4. Stay Social

Fostering social connections is a cognitive exercise often overlooked. Having a deep conversation and keeping relationships can help prevent loneliness and keep quick thinking at its best.

  • Senior Centers and Community Groups: Joining a local group or activity can provide a daily dose of social interaction.
  • Networking Online: Social media platforms can be used in a positive, moderated way to keep in touch with family and friends or to connect with like-minded people across the globe.
  • Volunteering: Becoming a volunteer gives you a big sense of purpose and gives you more social opportunities.

5. Mindfulness and Meditation

Mental exercises focused on mindfulness and meditation have been associated with positive cognitive outcomes, specific to attention and focus.

  • Daily Reflection: Take a few minutes each day to sit quietly and reflect, considering thoughts and feelings without judgment, simply observing them.
  • Guided Meditation: Use apps or audio recordings to guide you through meditation sessions specific to seniors, incorporating calming breathwork.
  • Yoga: Practicing yoga can be a form of moving meditation and offers the added benefit of physical exercise, which is also crucial for overall cognitive health.

By adding these cognitive exercises into your daily routine, you can work ahead of time to keep and even improve your mental sharpness as you age. It’s never too late to start, and there are many benefits, leading to a a happier and improved life.

WelbeHealth provides full-service healthcare and personalized support to help you age well at home and in your community. Our Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) meets the changing needs of seniors, often at no cost. Here you are supported by a dedicated team that coordinates all your care needs. With access to highly skilled doctors, dentists, home care, physical therapy and much more, you are able to live a healthier, happier you. To learn if you qualify, visit our contact page or, call us directly at (888) 530-4415 | TTY 711.

Senior playing jenga

Love Your Brain: 5 Simple Ways to Support Brain Health  

As we get older, it is important to find ways to support brain health. About 1 in 9 Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers expect that number to double by 2050. 

But, there is good news. You can support your brain health and lower your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias. Growing research has shown that lifestyle changes can significantly impact our brain health. 

Here are a few brain health tips you can put into practice! 

Exercise to Improve Blood Flow in Your Brain 

We all know exercise is good for our body, but it also benefits our noggin! Participate in regular exercise that raises your heart rate. This increases the blood flow in your body and your brain, helping you think more clearly. Several studies have shown that regular physical activity may decrease cognitive decline.  

Improve your brain health by adding some of these activities into your routine: 

  • Walking indoors or outdoors 
  • Swimming 
  • Aerobic exercise classes 
  • Dance 
  • Yoga 

Fuel Your Brain with Antioxidant-Rich Food 

There is no magic food or supplement that will prevent the onset of dementia. But, eating a balanced diet is just as good for your brain as it is for the rest of your body.  

Eating a Mediterranean-style diet has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. That means limiting red meat and going easy on the dairy. You’ll also want to increase the amount of fruit, veggies, and fish in your diet.  

Next time you reach for a bite to eat, try some of these Mediterranean brain-healthy foods: 

  • Salmon and other seafood 
  • Dark chocolate 
  • Nuts 
  • Potatoes 
  • Fruit 
  • Leafy green vegetables 

Use Your Brain “Muscles” to Stay Sharp 

Staying mentally engaged keeps your brain sharp. Like the muscles in your body, it’s a “use it or lose it” scenario. Mental exercises can promote the growth of new brain cells, and this regular development of new cells may decrease your likelihood of developing dementia. 

Maintaining mental sharpness doesn’t require crosswords and jigsaw puzzles (though studies show those mind challenges can help). Even participating in stimulating conversation, picking up a new hobby, or playing a game of chess can benefit your brain health. 

Try activities that are: 

  • Creative – Pick up painting, quilting, photography, or drawing.
  • Challenging – Don’t just do what comes easy; try something that challenges you a little. 
  • Novel – Master a new language, skill, or concept that is unfamiliar to you.
  • Stimulating – Attend a lecture on an interesting topic or spend time discussing a book with a friend

Give Your Brain the Rest it Needs 

When talking about brain health, we don’t always touch on sleep. But, sleep is a crucial aspect in protecting your brain from cognitive decline.  

Beta-amyloid plaque is an abnormal protein that builds up in the brain of some people. The presence of this plaque is a known precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found that a lack of sleep can increases the amount of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. It is important to get quality rest to support your brain health. 

If quality sleep is something you’re missing, try some of these things: 

  • Reduce daytime sleeping.
  • Speak with your doctor about adjusting medications that may be keeping you awake. 
  • Avoid looking at your phone, tablet, or computer before bed. 
  • Meditate prior to bedtime.
  • Avoid heavy meals before bedtime. 

Get Mental Health Support to Protect Your Brain 

Untreated depression later in life has been linked to cognitive impairment and dementia development. Seek care quickly if you are experiencing symptoms of depression or have other mental health concerns. Your primary care physician may prescribe medication to help alleviate symptoms, refer you to a therapist, or both. 

Speaking with a trusted therapist benefits your overall well-being, including your brain health. Your therapist can help you process grief, develop healthy coping strategies, and give you tools to overcome your mental health concerns.