Your brain is an organ and it ages in relation to how healthy it is. Just as a wide variety of physical activity helps strengthen the heart, muscles, and bones-your brain relies on physical activity of the intellectual type. Intellectual activity strengthens the brain, a lifetime of which will help keep it in shape when you reach old age. Intellectual activity throughout older age will help keep your brain healthy and keep mental decline at bay.
According to research published in the journal Neurology, older adults that engage in mentally stimulating activities, both earlier and later in life, experienced slower memory decline compared to those who were mentally stagnant. Specifically, people who kept intellectually healthy later in life had more than a 30% percent lower rate of mental decline compared to their peers that demonstrated merely average mental activity. Those with infrequent mental activity experienced almost a 50% faster decline in mental acuity than those with merely average mental activity.
The extent to which new neurons are generated is a controversial and debated topic in the scientific community. It is generally agreed upon that the majority of neurons are already present in our brains at the time of birth. Yet there is a growing body of evidence that indicates neurogenesis (birth of neurons) is a lifelong process.
The potential for adult-generated neurons is a fantastic revelation for our aging loved ones! Neurons (and their synaptic connections) are essential in learning and memory. The possibility of lifelong neurogenesis is a goldmine for our aging brains as the mind seeks to improve its function while simultaneously protecting against cognitive decline. Brain health is important at all ages; it is never too late to restart and reenergize your synapses!
What can we do to help stimulate and exercise the brain? How do we foster brain health in our aging loved ones? Many of the common age-related memory and motor skill losses are a result of inactivity; lack of mental exercise and stimulation can lead to mental atrophy. The adage holds true-if you don’t use it, you lose it!
According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, adults who frequently engage in mentally stimulating leisure activities are 63% less likely to develop dementia than those who rarely engage in such activities. Activities referred to in this specific study were reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments, and dancing. However, there are a whole host of mentally engaging activities that have been scientifically proven to give our brains the workouts it needs and help stave off cognitive decline! Below are a few of our favorite brain exercising activities to engage in with your aging loved one.
Mah Jong-this Chinese tile game has been around for centuries (since the 1600s). Skill and strategy are key in this game that is most often played with 3-4 players. Online and mobile app devices now allow for individuals to play and hone their skills in any of the many varied versions available.