Everyone has heard about the importance of daily physical exercise. It makes sense. Keep the muscles strong, the joints flexible and the heart pumping and you’re working your way toward a long and healthy life. The other part of the equation that is often overlooked, however, is the brain—the organ responsible for our memory, thought, feelings, judgment and reasoning. Fortunately, there are tools and techniques to work it out, helping you and your elderly parent keep your brains strong.
Learn Something New
Learning something new builds new pathways in the brain. A study conducted by Dr. Denise Park, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas, broke a group of 200 seniors into two groups. One spent 15 hours a week for 3 months learning new skills. The other spent time socializing or playing easy games. Only people who had learned new skills showed significant improvement. “We found quite an improvement in memory, and we found that when we tested our participants a year later, that was maintained,” Park said.
Learning something new can be challenging. It helps if it is an activity that your elderly parent has longed to learn—a yearning so profound that it keeps them at it even when frustration mounts. This could be a new language or a new art or craft such as digital photography, weaving or pottery.
Exercise benefits the body and the brain. Studies show that exercise stimulates new cell growth increasing mental abilities by 20 to 30 percent. It increases blood flow to the brain, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as dementia. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week.
Board games, puzzles, crosswords and Sudoku offer fun and shared activities that can improve memory and creativity. If your parent enjoys writing, consider helping them take up the art of writing a memoir. They will be firing their synapses and your family may very well treasure the memories.
Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduces inflammation and promotes healthy brain cells. This nutrient can be found in salmon, sardines and walnuts.
Elderly Care Provider
The other aspect to keeping a sharp and healthy brain is leading an active and engaged life. An elderly care provider can assist your loved with the care they need such as the daily activities of living like bathing and dressing. In addition, they can play games and promote mental stimulation by providing that all-important companionship.