With age, the thought process slows and it becomes more difficult to gather thoughts and to focus. This is due to atrophy of the brain. Just as any other body part or function will deteriorate without exercise, the brain depends on motivation as well. For example, if we allow our calf muscles to become dormant by not walking or encouraging them, gradually, our legs will slow to response and without exercise, eventually despondent. When keeping the brain active, we are able to deliberate and pay careful attention to matters that require concentration. There are several activities that are noninvasive, yet enjoyable, which helps to keep the brain on the right track.
* Chess: Once used to help teach young boys battle strategy, chess is a game of thought, planning and mental scheming. Good chess players must be able not only to envision where all the pieces on the board might move next, but they must also be able to see a few moves ahead to beat their opponents. This means that the elderly will have to focus and remember moves and playing patterns, sharpening their mental skills. Chess also requires limited physical movement for those with restrained agility.
* Riddles and brain teasers: Brain teasers are a great unaccompanied activity for seniors who prefer to unwind alone. These puzzles encourage the player to think outside the box of routine and utilize multiple portions of the brain. This brings stimulation and improves the rest of the brain as well, just like when you walk and use all of your muscles to remain active. Riddles are a good way to stimulate the mind while doing other things. Two people can converse them back and forth while doing other things. This keeps the mind engaged.
* Reading: A good book is a great way to relax and keep the mind poised. Reading allows the imagination to take over and creates a world of possibility when it comes to creativity. If the elderly patient does not prefer to read, as their caregiver, you can read to them. Take a list of favorite novels or authors, and even genres. The more appealing the patient finds the book, the more their brain responds to the task.
* Checkers: This is a strategy board game involving two opponents whom implicate diagonal moves of equivalent game pieces and captures by jumping over the opponents game piece. Checker is very popular with the elderly as they can work at their own pace and form their strategies.
* Mah Jong: Like Chess, Mah Jong is a game of strategy, but with a twist. Even if someone has played Mah Jong for many years, there are so many ways to set up the pieces that a person could play a new kind of Mah Jong, either alone or with other players. The option of setting up the board in different ways, along with solitaire and opponent play, offers a wide range of mental stimulation. In some versions of the game, you must also remember what the tiles mean, adding another type of focus. Most Mah Jong tiles look the same, but come in a variety of sizes for different levels of ingenuity.
* Knitting: This is a method by which thread or yarn is used to create a work of cloth. Knitted fabric consists of a number of consecutive rows of loops, called stitches. As each row progresses, a new loop is pulled through an existing loop. The active stitches are held
are held on a needle until another loop can be passed through. This process eventually results in a fabric used for garments. Knitting may be done by hand or by machine. There are numerous styles and methods of hand knitting. Different types of yarns and needles may be used to achieve a plethora of knitted materials; these tools give the final piece a different color, texture, weight, and/or integrity. Other factors that affect the end result include the needle’s shape, thickness and malleability, as well as the yarn’s fiber type, texture, and twist. Knitting is a wonderful activity because it keeps the mind active by imagining what the finished product will be, as well as deliberating on which colors and patterns they would like to use. Knitting also keeps hands from becoming idle.
The mind is a very powerful tool that controls the body. Mind stimulating activities help the mind to be fit and healthy and is just as, if not more important than keeping the body fit and active. Encourage those in your care to try new activities. Make brain exercising fun and exciting. We are never too old to learn.