As we age, we can start to observe changes to our bodies as well as changes to our ability to be able to complete certain tasks. This includes being able to remember simple facts, names or phone numbers. It can be disheartening to individuals to reach this point in their life and wonder whether there was more you could have done to help.
As we grow older, you experience physiological changes that can cause disconnections or ‘glitches’ in the way that your brain functions. We, as individuals often take things, such as our memory for granted. So, while it is inevitable that these changes are going to occur, don’t lose hope. Like any muscle, the brain can be trained and strengthened. The old saying, “use it or you will lose it,” doesn’t seem too far from the truth in this regard. Realistically, everyone will become forgetful as they get older but there are definitely things that you can do to help your brain remember and reconnect.
Challenging those Brain Waves through Cognitive Stimulation
Cognitive stimulation refers to a set of techniques and strategies designed to improve the performance of an individual’s brain. It assists in the further development of the brain’s functions such as memory, attention, language, reasoning and planning. For older individuals, cognitive rehabilitation may be necessary to help stimulate the brain and assist in bringing back some of the brains’ functions. Prevention of brain deterioration is particularly important, and as such it is recommended to actively participate in cognitive rehabilitation activities such as ‘brain games’ from younger years.
Old School Brain Training
There are many areas in which cognitive stimulation can be reached through simple daily exercises. If we take the example of reading. For the older individual, focus on comprehension reading and absorption of information. When you finish reading a book or magazine article, ask yourself a series of questions about the text that you just read; what, who, how and when, and then answer the questions. This focuses the brain on not only reasonable understanding of the text but memory and attention to detail as well.
It may seem strange but colouring is the latest trend in adult brain stimulation activities. It improves the individuals’ fine motor skills as well as focuses the attention to detail aspects of your brain. As colouring focuses the brain on the task at hand, our brains begin to relax, and we are not overrun by thoughts and dilemmas and as such helps us to become self-aware of our actions. It works similar to an Art or Music Program in which individuals can create a meaningful expression of their own self-awareness.
Playing games or completing puzzles, whether that be as an individual or within a group environment, is still considered one of the fundamental brain games that can assist elderly individuals with cognitive rehabilitation. This includes playing cards, chess, crosswords, sudoku or completing puzzles. These games stimulate the brain by activating our memory and problem-solving skills and boost the brains’ ability to interpret information. Actively participating in such activities is also good for your individual wellbeing as it can stimulate thoughts of happiness and positive memories. Playing within a group of people also actively promotes positive social interaction which is also a key factor in happiness and longevity of life.
The Digital Age of Brain Games; Who Thought?
Nowadays, access to cognitive stimulation through mobile devices is easy and simple, as well as available virtually anywhere. While digital brain games can be designed for individuals of all ages, for older people, the games should be focused on establishing memory connections and problem solving. The advancements in technology mean that older individuals can have access to thousands of online brain games and the ability to play with other people from the comfort of their own home. Online games are easily downloadable and accessible at any time. Simple games such as digital sudoku, crosswords and word search are common and the options for them are endless. More complicated brain teaser games or problem-solving games can also be utilised to support brain stimulation. It is, however, important to understand that while digital brain games are fun and interactive, they shouldn’t dictate or replace other everyday activities that also stimulate brain functions, such as socialising, reading, exercising and general household activities.
Bring Back Those Memories!
Whether it be through physical activities or through digital platforms, it is important for everyone, not only seniors to be aware of their brain capacity and actively try to stimulate the brain as often as possible. It is important too, as individuals, that we take extra care and support our seniors in keeping their minds active and help to facilitate activities that can promote this. It is commonly seen throughout aged care facilities across Australia, through art and music programs, bingo, trivia and similar activities that encourages aged care residents to come together to participate.
Remember, you only have one brain. It is a magnificent muscle and should be stimulated like any other muscle you can use during exercise. Instilling these values means that you have a better mental health capacity, better brain capacity and overall, a better quality of life and you are using it and not losing it!