Memory and cognitive function are affected as we age, but you can help to keep an aging loved one’s mind sharp and focused. There are a number of ways to maintain and possibly even increase memory and brain functioning as we age. Encourage your loved one to incorporate as many of these activities into their daily routines as possible:
1. Exercise. Regular exercise and staying in shape can help slow and reduce some of the effects of aging both physically and mentally. The improved circulation, coordination and blood flow promoted by exercising increases brain health. Your loved one will receive a dose of serotonin as well, a natural mood enhancer.
2. Do puzzles. Puzzles and word games such as sudoku, crosswords, search-a-word, mazes and jigsaw puzzle challenge the brain and get it to work in different ways than it normally does. This added stimuuation helps to keep the brain and memory sharp.
3. Eat brain-healthy foods. Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables help keep a senior’s mind sharp and functioning optimally. Blueberries, green peppers, tomatoes, leafy greens and melon are just a few examples. Foods like fish, nuts and seeds contain healthy fats that serve to protect the brain.
4. Take brain-boosting supplements. Vitamins such as Omega 3s (flaxseed oil or fish oil) and gingko biloba have been shown to have brain and memory enhancing effects and can help keep your loved one’s memory sharp. Check with their doctor before starting them on any supplements.
5. Junk foods high in sugar, fat, salt and oil slow down metabolism and can limit the flow of oxygen to the brain. Encourage your senior loved one to avoid unhealthy foods so that their brain can function at full capacity.
6. Get plenty of sleep. Getting seven to eight hours of rest per night helps increase brain functioning and assists seniors in being more sharp and alert throughout the day.
7. Don’t smoke. Like junk foods, smoking has the effect of reducing the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain, thereby decreasing its functioning.
8. Be social. Creating and maintaining social relationships with friends and peers helps seniors to stay active, sharp and alert. Social skills are one of the most rewarding ways to keep the brain active, healthy and working up to capacity.
9. Keeping a journal. Journaling is an excellent way for seniors to keep their minds sharp and their memories fresh. They might also consider making a gratitude list each day, writing down the things they were thankful for that day and re-reading each entry the following morning.
10. Never stop learning. Continuing education for seniors is an excellent way to keep their minds active, engaged and always learning.