As we age, it’s natural for our cognitive abilities to decline, which is why maintaining our mind muscles is just as essential as staying physically active. For Brain Awareness Week, March 13-19, we’re wrapping our heads around the most complex part of the body by highlighting senior brain health, senior memory care, and ways to flex our minds.
Brain activities challenge the mind, boost concentration and memory, sharpen cognitive skills, and make daily tasks easier. Maintaining mental sharpness and brain health also helps reduce the risk of memory loss and developing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
What contributes to age-related memory decline?
Several factors can promote a decline in our ability to remember things as we age. One of the main reasons is a natural decrease in the number of brain cells and their connections, which can reduce the speed and efficiency with which our brains process information.
Another factor is the decline in the production of hormones and neurotransmitters involved in memory and learning, like estrogen and acetylcholine, which can affect our ability to form new memories or recall old ones. Additionally, age-related changes in the brain’s structure, such as a reduction in the size of the hippocampus–the part of the brain responsible for forming and retrieving memories–can also impact memory.
Having a medical condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or depression can also negatively impact brain health and memory as we age. And certain medications may have side effects that affect memory and cognitive function. While age-related memory decline is inevitable, the good news is there are easy ways for seniors to maintain and improve overall well-being, which also supports brain health.
- Fuel your body with a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, antioxidants, and healthy fats. Incorporate foods like fish and other seafood, nuts, and berries into your diet.
- Keep your body active and incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Activities like walking, swimming and water aerobics, fitness classes, strength and balance training, and stretching can help elevate your heart rate, increase blood flow, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Stay socially connected. Maintain strong relationships with friends and family, and explore opportunities for interaction and mental stimulation such as a club or social group.
- Monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels to keep them within healthy ranges.
- Quit smoking to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and take steps to stay safe by wearing a seatbelt, using a bike helmet, and preventing falls.
- Prioritize sleep by getting enough rest and maintaining a consistent schedule. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to help improve cognitive function and memory.
- Manage stress by seeking help for mental health concerns like depression or anxiety and finding ways to cope with daily stressors.
10 fun ideas for boosting brain health
Many active seniors already incorporate the healthy habits and behaviors above into their lifestyle, but there also are creative and enjoyable ways to improve brain power. Not only can they help boost our brain’s processing speed and memory, but they also can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Here are 10 fun ideas to support senior brain health.
- Expand your knowledge: Head back to the classroom and pick up a book or enroll in a class on a subject that fascinates you, whether in-person or online. From astrology to zoology, there’s a world of topics to explore.
- Get your game on: Put the pieces together and complete a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a stunning Florida beach landscape. Challenge yourself and your friends with bridge, mahjong, chess, crossword puzzles, and sudoku.
- Let the music move you: Crank up the tunes and sing along to feel-good music, join a choir, or learn to play a musical instrument.
- Dance the night away: Brush up on your ballroom dance moves or try something new, such as salsa, jazz, or line dancing. Take an in-person class or watch online videos to get started.
- Give back: Volunteer your time at an animal shelter or food pantry or offer to mentor a young entrepreneur. Sign up for a beach cleanup or support a meaningful local cause.
- Embrace your creative side: Experiment with pottery, wood turning, painting, and journaling. Let your imagination run wild and see where it takes you.
- Learn a new skill: Perfect your tennis backhand or golf swing. Master a new language. Build a piece of furniture. Get your hands dirty and start a garden.
- Mix things up: Try a new cuisine or recipe, take a different shopping route, or experiment with a new mode of transportation, such as riding a bike or paddling a canoe or kayak.
- Find inner peace: Embrace the silence and take time to relax and rejuvenate. Daily meditation practice and mindfulness activities like yoga, Pilates or tai chi can calm your mind and body.
Senior living that makes meaningful and measurable differences in brain health
At The Glenview at Pelican Bay in Naples, residents have daily opportunities to boost their brain health and improve their memory, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking. All of our senior living community’s recreational programs and social activities are designed to promote wellness, healthy aging, and lifelong learning.