We all suffer from memory hiccups from time to time, where we can’t quite remember why we came to a certain room, or the word we’re looking for is on the tip of our tongue. As we get older this may happen more frequently, but there are a number of things we can do to keep our memory and cognitive ability sharp as we age. Our brains are very much like the muscles in our body and therefore need regular exercise. It really is a case of use it or lose it!
If you’re keen to improve your memory and train that brain, Here’s a few tips for you to try:
Doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku is one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp and improve cognitive ability. From stimulating concentration to strengthening short-term memory, the combined benefits of puzzles help to reduce our risk of dementia. Even Jigsaws are great at improving our visual perception and memory (and they’re fun too).
Slow the cognitive ageing process by strengthening the connections between parts of your brain through learning something new. Why not take up a musical instrument? Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language, but never found the time. Well there’s no time like the present and learning a new skill like this is a fantastic way to boost your memory skills and stimulate your brain. After all, to learn something is to be able to remember it. The same principle applies to games. If you’re already familiar with draughts, then why not learn chess? The possibilities are endless, so find something that piques your interest and give it a go.
The more social connections someone has, the better they are at preserving mental function and memory. Research shows that social interaction has a number of health benefits both physically and mentally, especially as we start to get older. Even ten minutes of socialising can help to boost mental function. This could be a phone call to a friend or family member, to catch up on each other’s week, or you could invite them over for a card game or take part in a book club. As well as being good for your cognitive ability, being social is great for lifting your mood and boosting your overall well-being. It really is good to talk.
Getting your body moving is not only important for your physical health, but it’s also key to maintaining a healthy brain. Regular exercise can help to boost memory function by tackling areas known to cause or contribute to cognitive impairment, such as stress and anxiety. You could try going for a short ten-minute walk each day, or look for a local exercise class that appeals to you. If you have physical difficulties, don’t be discouraged. There are classes for all kinds of skill levels and abilities, and exercise plans you can carry out in your own living room. If you haven’t done much exercise in a while, you may want to discuss it with your GP first. Whichever activity you choose, exercise is known to boost, or at least maintain, long-term cognitive health and therefore reduce the risk of dementia. So as we get older, it is definitely in our interest to stay as active as possible.
One of the best ways to keep your memory sharp is to test it regularly. Try to memorise your weekly shopping list or your to-do list for the day and then try to recall the information an hour or two later. If you’ve recently finished a book or even a long phone conversation with a friend or family member, try to remember and then write down the main points. Doing this often, will help to keep your brain stimulated and on its toes.
When we behave on auto-pilot, our brains don’t need to process as much information. Changing up your daily routine could help you to store more information long-term. Try to vary your daily routine by completing your household tasks in a different order than usual, or if you’re going out in the car, try to take a different route and keep it fresh. The idea is to avoid repetitiveness and to change up everyday routes once they become too familiar. This can be applied to most everyday activities like walking the dog or going to the supermarket.
With modern technology, you can access an extensive range of digital brain training exercises through your phone or tablet. There are numerous apps to help you improve your memory, challenge your brain and fight off the effects of ageing. Apps like ‘Lumosity’ and ‘Peak’ present you with a series of fun and challenging games to help you work on your memory, attention and problem-solving. This all helps to stimulate the brain and improve cognitive skills, whilst also having fun.
Just as sleep is important for our bodies to feel rested and recharged, it is just as crucial for our brains. Attention and concentration are inhibited when sleep is restless and our mental function is not as sharp as it is in those who have normal, restful sleep. A good night’s sleep is especially important to older adults, because it helps improve concentration and memory formation. Try to avoid caffeine in the evening and it’s a good idea to avoid eating a big meal just before bed. Also, if you’re a smoker, try to avoid that late night cigarette as nicotine is a stimulant and should be avoided just before sleep.
As much as we work to keep our minds sharp and our memories keen, sometimes we still may need some extra help and support with everyday activities. At Home Instead, we can help to find a Care Professional in your area that is right for you. We match people with experienced Care Professionals, taking into consideration not only your needs, but also your interests and preferences.
If you liked this article, you may also be interested in our blog about memory games for the elderly.