Five ways to keep your mind active in later life

Five ways to keep your mind active in later life

Author: Philippa Thompson

As we age it’s not just our bodies that show signs of slowing down, but it doesn’t need to be all bad news. Whilst there is no doubt that DNA plays a significant factor in how we age, there is more and more evidence available to support that keeping physically and mentally active helps to retain well-honed cognitive skills for longer.

Here are five tips for keeping your mind alert in later life.

1. Take up a new activity

Learning new skills creates new neural pathways in the brain. A particularly effective way to enhance your thinking skills is learning a new language.

According to Dr Thomas Bak of the University of Edinburgh, research suggests that people with the ability to communicate in more than one language develop dementia around 4-5 years later than those who only speak one language. What’s more, they are also twice as likely to recover their cognitive abilities after a stroke.

So, if you’ve always yearned to learn a different language, now could be the perfect time.

2. Be a social bee

Staying connected with family and friends, and participating in meaningful social activities, may help to slow cognitive decline.

Our social networks naturally shrink as we age. However, as well as joining clubs where you take part in regular activities, modern technology, such as Skype and social media platforms, can also play a part in keeping you socially engaged with family, even if they don’t live nearby.

Your local community is likely to provide a rich source of social activities – find out about local drop-in centres or church groups. Or you could consider opportunities to volunteer at local schools or playgroups. There’s nothing quite like children to keep your mind agile!

Caring for a pet can provide a useful structure to your day and, for example when walking a dog, your pet can even provide a much needed catalyst for social interaction.

3. Take care of your health

Ensuring you are up to date with check-ups will make it easier to spot if there are underlying issues that might be affecting your thinking skills. For example, some medication can affect your thinking patterns, and being overweight can have an adverse impact on your brain power.

If you have noticed any changes that give you cause for concern, it’s always wise to speak to your GP.

4. Keep moving

As we’ve mentioned in other articles, physical activity is a key factor in maintaining your overall health and wellbeing.

As a general rule, being fit and active will reduce the rate at which you age; in turn resulting in a lower-than-average decline in your thinking skills.

By introducing purposeful exercise into your daily routine, you can expect to benefit from structural improvements in your brain structure within 6-12 months. The University of Edinburgh has published compelling research findings – you can read more here.

5. Sleep well

As you age you may find that you don’t sleep as soundly, or for as long as you used to. This is perfectly normal. However, persistent disruption to sleep can result in a number of both chronic and acute health problems.

That’s why you need to work harder as you get older to maintain positive sleep habits. Things like going to bed and getting up at the same times (even on weekends), banning electronic devices for at least an hour before bed, and managing your intake of food and drink to reduce the chance of being disturbed during the night.

If at all possible, it’s wise to limit daytime naps to half an hour or less so that you don’t enter a deep sleep and set yourself up for a bad night later on.

You can find more information about sleep and brain health here.

Supporting our residents

Life at The Dower House offers many opportunities for cognitive stimulation from musical recitals to quizzes and scrabble competitions. Added to this, the staff work hard to support a positive routine for all residents which includes help developing healthy sleep patterns.

From a healthy menu to regular activities, every aspect of our nursing care is designed to promote a rich and stimulating life.

If you would like to find out more about life at The Dower House, please get in touch with the team who would be delighted to answer any questions you may have.

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