Today, people are living longer than ever before. Rapid improvements in healthcare technology have given many the opportunity to live well beyond a century while maintaining the ability to do things they never thought possible with their aging bodies. As exciting as this may sound, living a longer life comes with new challenges, including the threat of cognitive decline. For many, just saying the words ‘cognitive decline’ is enough to cause a bit of anxiety. No one wants to live their life with the constant fear that they are going to lose their mind. Fortunately, there are certain activities seniors can incorporate into their routine that have been scientifically shown to delay the process of cognitive decline by improving brain health.
Keep reading to learn 3 surprising ways seniors can boost the health of their brain.
One activity seniors can take advantage of is the practice of meditation. Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on the present by bringing your attention to a single reference point. This reference point can be anything from breathing to a single word or phrase. While studies have shown meditation can be beneficial across many age groups, the potential impact meditation can have on senior’s cognitive function is particularly attractive.
Memory is one of the most common cognitive-related complaints among seniors. Some of the areas that are triggered during meditation are those that contribute to the efficiency of long-term and short-term memory. Stimulating these areas during meditation has been shown to strengthen them, resulting in an improvement in one’s overall ability to remember.
Manage Stress and Reduce Brain Shrinkage
Stress in small doses is essential, but there is a fine line between a healthy level of stress and having too much stress. Without getting into too much detail, just know that chronic stress is one of the quickest ways to age your brain. Meditation helps keep stress levels low by encouraging relaxation. Simple meditation practices, such as mindfulness, have been shown to lead to an overall improvement in brain health. When analyzing the brains of those who practiced meditation regularly, aging had less of an effect on their brain. Mindfulness specifically has been shown to slow the shrinkage of the brain that occurs with age.
Meditation has also been linked to an increase in resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back and recover quickly from difficulties. The ability to do this is crucial for optimal health.
Go Outside and Garden
Gardening is one of the most popular home-based activities in the U.S., yet it is often overlooked when planning a healthy lifestyle. Gardening can provide some significant health benefits to people of all ages, but the benefits for seniors are truly noteworthy. Commonly known as a leisure activity, gardening has been shown to improve many health issues found among seniors. A few reasons seniors may want to consider picking up a shovel include the following:
If you decide to include fruits and vegetables in your garden, gardening can be a great way to improve your diet.You will always have plenty of fresh, organic, and in-season produce on hand. By going this route, you eliminate any excuse for you not to include these nutritious foods on your plate.
Gardening is also an excellent activity for seniors because it can be a source of gentle exercise. Seniors who have problems with mobility often find conventional forms of exercise difficult or even painful. Gardening gives seniors a way to participate in physical activity without sacrificing their comfort or safety.
Enhance Mental Health
Today’s society spends much of their time inside. As we know, this cultural norm causes us to miss out on the natural vitamin D we get from the sun. Vitamin D is a crucial component of happiness and the lack of it can lead to mental health issues such as depression. Gardening outside gives seniors the opportunity to get outside and soak up some sun.
Like mentioned, chronic stress is detrimental to brain health. Gardening can help keep stress levels at bay by promoting relaxation.
Learn Something New
Gardening also gives seniors the opportunity to learn something new. Due to the common notion, “use it or lose it,” learning has been shown to help maintain cognitive function.
Get Involved in Your Community by Volunteering
Volunteering might do a lot more than make you feel good, according to the AARP. Studies have proven that volunteering could increase the size of the brain regions most vulnerable to the effects of age.
Encourage Feelings of Connectedness
Feeling connected with friends and family plays a huge role in senior health. As you age, it may be more difficult to meet new people. Getting involved in the community by volunteering gives seniors the opportunity to do just that. When you volunteer in your community, you are surrounded with plenty of potential friends.
Increase the Sense of Purpose
Volunteering has the ability to give seniors an improved sense of purpose. Many studies have shown this feeling to have a positive correlation with health. Having a reason to get up in the morning can help give your brain that little nudge to help you keep moving.
Improve Overall Brain Function
Becoming a volunteer can improve the overall function of your brain. Studies have shown volunteers who were at risk for problems with memory and thinking skills had significant gains in their executive function, which is responsible for various cognitive tasks including planning, reasoning, and organizing.
Unfortunately, there currently isn’t a one-step solution guaranteed to defend your brain against cognitive decline. There are, however, studies that have proven that lifestyle can make a huge difference in how well your brain ages. Incorporating these activities into your lifestyle can help to preserve your healthy brain. The best thing about these activities is not that they are incredibly simple or that they are enjoyable, but that you can start them right now for little to no cost at all.
“3 Surprising Ways Seniors Can Boost Brain Health,” Ashley LeVine, Amada Blog Contributor.