Keep Seniors' Minds on the Move – 10 Tips to prevent cognitive decline.
More and more research is showing that engaging seniors in brain game activities provides many advantages.
"Brain games help keep aging minds young and vital," said Paul Hogan, President and CEO of Home Instead Senior Care. "Many of today's seniors have said goodbye to traditional 'senior' games like bingo. They gravitate more toward video-game technology and group activities such as Scrabble and bridge tournaments."
A study from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia published in a 2006 issue of Psychological Medicine determined that individuals with high "brain reserve" - gauged by an assessment of education, occupational complexity and mentally stimulating pursuits in preventing cognitive decline - have a 46 percent decreased risk of dementia relative to those who are classified as having low brain reserve. The study also revealed that even a late-life surge in mental activity can help ward off the effects of this terrible disease.
Unfortunately, there is an increasingly larger percentage of our senior population living alone and finding it difficult to stay mentally active – because of the lack of companionship.
"Sometimes seniors just need a little encouragement from family and friends to help them pursue interests that will help keep their minds stimulated," Hogan said. "Our Home Instead CAREGiver training includes a component specifically targeted to identifying client interests and coming up with ways to engage them in mental and other activities to keep them engaged and enthused about life. Consequently, our CAREGivers have observed many positive life changes for the older adults in their care."
According to Dr. Ronald Peterson, director of the Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, multiple factors contribute to a deteriorating senior mind. "There is often a genetic component to Alzheimer’s, but the environment plays a role as well, Peterson said. "The cumulative effects of medical issues - vascular changes like hardening of the arteries, for instance - also contribute to dementia, and the connections between nerve cells most likely don't work as well, either."
Peterson has also observed that the wisdom and acquired experience seniors bring from their past to the table is often under-valued in our society - another important reason for seniors to keep both mind and body "in shape." He also emphasizes that there are no iron-clad rules about which senior mind activities are best suited to warding off the effects of aging.
"Whether it's a computer game, crossword or Sudoku puzzles, or reading and analyzing a newspaper or magazine - first and foremost, seniors need to enjoy whatever activities they are engaged in," Peterson said. "If your senior does not enjoy his or her activities, they are not likely to be beneficial, whatever they are."
Video technology has attracted many seniors' attention. For instance, the second-annual "Evercare 100 @ 100 Survey," sponsored by Evercare, polled one hundred Americans turning 100 or older about their practices and habits, and found that one in seven has played video games.1
Similarly, Nintendo's Brain Age™: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day - a video game for the portable Nintendo DS™that features simple math and other activities - has received high marks from seniors and researchers alike.
Then there's the company's new Wii™ home video game system, which allows players to interactively compete in sports such as bowling and golf. It has been flying off the shelves since its release, and seniors comprise a significant percentage of its consumer market. Senior care communities around the country have even begun to host Wii tournaments.
Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski, a professor of gerontology and psychology at the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California says games such as Brain Age definitely can help keep older adults' minds active. “It's all about communication. Seniors can do a great deal to maintain and even to improve their mental abilities. Today, aging is all about taking on new challenges for our minds."
Tips for Mind-Stimulating Fun from Home Instead Senior Care
° Video Action. Interactive video games such as Nintendo's Brain Age, and the new Wii home video game system, are particularly good for stimulating seniors' minds.
° Computer Games. Even seniors who are intimidated by the computer still can play online and other computer games. Playing Solitaire or joining an online bridge game does not require computer savvy.
° Game Night. Board or card games offer a great avenue for mind stimulation. Encourage your senior loved one to get a few friends together to join in the fun.
° Musicians Should Keep Playing. Many seniors were avid musicians in earlier years and some may still have pianos or other instruments in their homes. Ask them to play you a tune or challenge them to learn an instrument.
° Tournament Fun. Bridge and Scrabble tournaments for seniors at the local senior centers may be available or encourage your older adult to join a local bridge group. Call your local senior center for more information.
° Think big. Crossword, large-piece jigsaw and Sudoku puzzles are great pastimes for seniors who need a mind-stimulating activity when they are alone.
° Getting Out. Most communities have concerts, lectures and other arts that interest seniors and their families. If your loved one is able to get out, consider those.
° Staying informed. Many seniors maintain their interest in politics and current events. For your senior's next birthday, why not renew a subscription to a newspaper or popular news magazine, or organize a news discussion group.
° Just the two of you. When it's just you and your senior loved one, remember that there are more things you can do together than just watch television. Hasbro Inc., the largest U.S. game company, has introduced three fast versions of classic board games: Monopoly Express, Scrabble Express and Sorry Express. Less time to play - same great fun!
° Companionship Counts. Elderly companionship is an important part of stimulating seniors' minds. If your senior has no one to spend time with, consider hiring a home care companion such as a Home Instead CAREGiver. There are many people who have committed themselves professionally to help ease the challenges aging presents to older adults and to their families. They're available, and they want to help.
At Home Instead Senior Care, we have trained CAREGivers who can respond to the needs of the senior and provide companionship and brain engaging activities. All of our CAREGivers can provide transportation to the local Senior Centers as well as the Centers for Performing Arts and more so that our clients can enjoy the activities available.
1. Online at http://www.evercarehealthplans.com/index.jsp