3 Brain Boosting Activities for Senior Citizens
Old and Healthy
"Grow old along with me
The Best is Yet to Be,"
wrote Robert Browning. We certainly hope that this is true for us as well as for him. Today as people approach later years, they can and are taking a much more aggressive attitude towards making those golden years very good years.
We know that health is the most precious asset one can have. Therefore, our exercise habits are not being ditched as hair starts to grey or little joint aches try to convince us we are old. While accepting some change as inevitable, we are not going sweetly into a goodnight of twelve straight hours watching "Law and Order" reruns, day in and day out. No. We are taking care of our health, and a big part of that is our brain health.
Mental health. Intellectual function. Staying sharp. Keeping whatever memory skills we can. However, one describes it, these are the focus of the suggestions here.
In the last twenty years, bless them, researchers have made discoveries blasting away at the notion that aging necessarily means getting dotty. Brain scientists believe that "...even into our seventies, our brains continue producing new neurons. Scientists no longer hold the longstanding belief that we lose vast numbers of brain cells as we grow older..." from the PBS documentary, The Secret Life of the Brain, Episode 5.
This is tremendous news. It means we have the basic building blocks for good mental health as octogenarians and beyond.. So, the question is: what do we do to nurture our brain function as we chalk up more candles on the birthday cake?
Research affirms that consciously learning new things, engaging in exercise, and maintainging social contact all boost brain health in older persons. Therefore, these three ideas are possible yellow brick roads to keeping one's mental skills ready for contestantship on next week's quiz show:
Make music in a group.
Make regular contact with a younger generation.
Exercise with others.
These are all "two-fers." In other words, two beneficial features exist in one activity. Socialization is a common thread among these three activities.
My analysis of everything I think about when I play piano
- How the Brain Works when Playing Piano
Explanation of all the things the brain does when reading music to play piano.
Join the Band or Choir
Almost anyplace that is large enough to have its own post office probably has enough people to support a music performing group. Joining a group gives one the needed social contact. Making music is not easy. There is an instance of an older baby boomer woman with no experience in school bands who decided to join her community's band. She was a singer by nature, and could read music. In her very later years, she learned to read what she called "that teeny, tiny score that sits two feet away from you" in a percussion section. It required her full attention and concentration. However, she mastered it, has purchased many percussion instruments, and has a gaggle of new friends.
Many places of worship have choirs for which the only requirement is enthusiasm (not breath-taking skill). These are venues for music-making.
Then, there is the Mozart effect. This theory proposes that listening to music improves brain function. Although its existence remains controversial, I feel it worth a try. However, whether or not hearing music has intrinsic brain boosting power, the act of performing requires heavy-duty symbol decoding, counting, possible memorizing, and eye-hand coordination. This is exercise for the brain. And, doing it with a group meets the socialization aspect for mental health.
Commit to an Activity with Folks under age 25
Following are possible activities:
Volunteer at elementary schools, possibly in a Foster Grandparent program.
Have a job with exposure to this age group (the under 25's) full or part-time.
Volunteer in your worship center's nursery. Or scout troop. Or homeless shelter. Or nature center which includes visits by school-age groups. Or pediatric ward in local hospital.
(Many of these pursuits will also remind you to count your blessings.)
Go to college with many fascinating twenty-somethings FOR FREE! (or very little)
Support your local theatre group by acting or set building, serving on the crew or in the ticket office.
I guarantee that interacting with these young people will be a constant learning experience. One learns new slang (not the cuss words, just slang) and new values typical of the generation. You will see the new clothing styles and maybe know who the new, popular entertainers are before your children do. Easily, one will be exposed to and learn about the New technology (wouldn't it be helpful to make knowledgeable contacts here!)
This gentleman has the right idea: dance with the "kids!"
- Celebrating CATS
Click on the blue words to go to the web store with the Angel Kitten coffee mugs. They come in right-hand and left-hand models.
Exercise with others
The knowledge is out there. Yoga can be done by all. There are many activities that are safe, or can be modified, for persons with health frailties and concerns. Even those in wheelchairs can perform isometrics and use hand weights. By doing it with a class or a group, you gain the people connection as well. PS... remember the daily bath after working out.
Use it, don't lose it
If you are currently doing one of these activities, congratulations and keep it up! If you are not yet, reflect on whether any of these will work for you.
Text and indicated photos copyright 2008 Maren E. Morgan.
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