As adults age, many begin to worry about their mental health and well-being beginning to decline. 47.5 million people around the world suffer from dementia with nearly 7.7 million new cases a year. The best way to protect mental health and prevent the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's is to challenge and exercise the brain regularly. Here are a few ways seniors can stimulate their mind in order to stay in good health.

PLAY WORD GAMES

While many think of games as just a great pastime, they are actually more than that! Word games and puzzles are extremely beneficial to mental health because they help with cognitive functioning, learning and stress reduction, which can stave off the symptoms of Alzheimer's and dementia in older adults. Word games activate parts of the brain that deal with language and word finding, which forces the brain to work, be active and exercise. Playing word games like Scrabble regularly helps increase vocabulary, learn new spelling, and offers the chance for seniors to socialize with others!

Studies have shown that those who participate in cognitive activities are 47 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those who don’t participate in like activities. Also, those who partake in both physical and intellectual activities in middle age are far less likely to develop dementia than those who do not.

doing puzzle

Sudoku is one of the most popular brain training exercises for seniors. To play this game one must differentiate patterns using problem-solving and logical processes. As adults get older they become used to constantly solving the same types of problems which cause their brain to become burnt out or stagnant. Sudoku is great for mental stimulation because while playing, the brain uses synapses that allow seniors to fill in the gaps. More traditional games such as crossword puzzles and word searches are also beneficial in helping improve memory and cognitive skills. These games do not have to be finished in one sitting, so setting aside a few minutes a day to play and work through several clues can assist in jogging a seniors memory and keeping their brain balanced. The key to seeing benefits from any brain game is to make it a daily habit because neurons have the tendency to dull over time.

And if word games aren't of interest, there's always the beloved pastime of reading. Books offer the perfect way for seniors to stimulate their minds. Whether it's a physical book or a book on tape, reading boosts cognitive skills, general brain function and memory. Reading has also been linked to slowing cognitive decline and improving overall brain health.

STAY ACTIVE

For older adults, physical activity and mentally stimulating activities go hand in hand. To have a better chance at warding off any mental illnesses, there must be a healthy balance between the two. A beneficial physical activity for a senior can be something as simple as taking their dog for a walk. Walking has many benefits for older adults and their dogs and a brief daily 30-minute walk can increase energy, reduce blood pressure and improve a sense of well-being. Routine walks with these beautiful, non-judgmental creatures strengthen bonds between owner and dog and provide the foundation for a trusting relationship. Seniors without pets of their own might consider becoming pet sitters. That way, they’ll still get the benefits from these furry companions and can make some spending money in the process.

walking dog

Cognitive decline is becoming a major concern in senior well-being, which is why learning to improve brain health is as important as ever. Being of sound mind and body is the best way to enjoy the time known as the “golden years”. To be proactive with mental and physical health, it is recommended to start exercising the mind through word games, puzzles, and reading as soon as possible!

Caroline James, Guest Blogger from elderaction.org

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