Getting older is not for sissies. It creeps up on you and before you know it – body parts ache, you can’t read a magazine unless you hold it at arm’s length – and then there’s that thing about memory lapse. It must have happened to you – you walk into a room and forget what you went there for. You misplace your car keys. You forget the names of people and things. Your memory is disappearing into a hidden cerebral groove. And then you resign yourself to the fact that you have joined the “Aged Brigade”.
Severe memory loss is usually caused by disease. However, most age-related loss of memory simply results from a lack of mental exercise and stimulation. Research has shown that stimulation, activity and diversity are the key to good memory as we go through the ageing process. The experts are saying “use it or lose it”. Ban those senior moments! It’s time to age-proof your brain.
A study done by a University of California Los Angeles team, and published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, shows that a simple, everyday task like searching the web helps boost brain power by enhancing brain circuitry in older adults. This study was based on 24 volunteers aged between 55 and 76. Professor Gary Small, one of the lead researchers in this study said that the study results had been encouraging. He said that “emerging computerized technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults”. And so “silver surfers”, as we are called, can help ourselves to reduce the risk of dementia, by taking part in regular mentally stimulating activities coupled with frequent social interaction, regular exercise and maintaining a balanced diet.
Tony Buzan (“Guru of the Grey Matter”) has written a book titled ‘Age-Proof Your Brain’. This book discusses the vital issues of ageing and provides practical ways that one can sharpen their mind and significantly improve their level of creativity and problem solving abilities. An hour a day doing Buzan’s mind-stimulating workout will leave your brain in sparkling form! Buzan says that senior moments have more to do with absent mindedness than absent memory. So let’s hone our mental functions by learning new skills, getting involved in intellectual skirmishes and doing mentally taxing work.
So, in time, all those “senior moments” could be a thing of the past. With all that wonderful, creative and mind-boosting power, you may find that getting older is in fact more fun than being young.
Give your brain a workout:
- Excellent brain-stretching exercises (timed memory games, crossword puzzles, wordsearch, quizzes) challenge the brain and force it to build new connections.
- Learn a foreign language (and then for fun, arrange a trip to that country, to practice your new-found skills!)
- Constant repetition is key to memorizing facts – stick new words, foreign words, or interesting quotes on the fridge. Read them at least once a day. After five days, the information should stick!
- Play board games like Monopoly or Cluedo regularly, rather than watch TV. A Chinese study on 5000 people aged 55+ over five years found that watching TV increased cognitive impairment.
- Play action-packed video games to speed up your responses. Playing video games can also distract from pain and discomfort during medical treatments.
- Contract bridge or chess increases your immune cell count. A University of California-Berkeley study demonstrated that the level of white blood cells called T-cells increased significantly in bridge-players.
- Sudoku triggers the activation of “survival genes” in your brain, making cells live longer which helps fight disease.
- Read out loud – one of the best brain exercises.
- Household budget time? Lose the calculator – use your brain to work out those sums.
- Learn a new activity that involves brain, eye and hand co-ordination – playing a new musical instrument, gardening, knitting, or DIY.
- Memorise your shopping list.
- Research has shown that those who maintain social contact seem to fare better in matters of memory and concentration.