*Requires Adobe Acrobat
Keepsake Companions
Community Service Program


Exercise The Brain

Mental Work Outs Can Help Seniors Maintain Cognitive Abilities

What do jogging and a crossword puzzle have in common? They are both forms of exercise - one physical, the other mental...and each one can help you to keep in better shape.

Of course, physical exercise is promoted by the medical community, as well as society in general, as an important part of the routine necessary for leading a healthier and more active lifestyle. The cerebral type of exercise, not so much. However, that is changing.

Studies continue to discover and validate that mental workouts can improve cognitive function and prevent a decline in the ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLís). So more and more seniors, along with support from their caregivers and doctors, are integrating exercise of the brain into their daily routine. At the same time, they are also adding more confidence, dignity and enjoyment into their lives.

Crossword puzzles require the brain to search for words. This type of memory "workout" may help reduce instances in which known words cannot be recalled.

Work Outs

Reminiscence Therapy

Choosing to participate in activities that challenge the brain can help to maintain a personís cognitive abilities. Commonly, more effective activities:

  • Utilize a personís memory.
  • Demand the use of inductive reasoning.
  • Require quickness of response.

Here are some mentally stimulating suggestions.

  • Puzzles of all kinds.
  • Board games and card games.
  • Reading and writing.
  • Dancing and playing a musical instrument.
  • Computer games.
  • There are games specifically designed to target the cognitive abilities of seniors.

Daily chores can also be included in this list. For those with some dementia, everyday tasks can be presented as challenges or made into games.

When it comes to dealing with seniors and their cognitive abilities, stimulating memories has been elevated to a form of therapy - reminiscence therapy. This therapy can take many forms. It can be a simple chat directed by a family member that will exercise a loved oneís memory. It can be a group of seniors getting together to talk about their lives. It can even be a life review that is conducted by a hospice professional and helps a senior to bring their life to a close.

To help a person to reminisce, it is often helpful to arouse their senses.

  • Sight - Photos, gifts and other items that have a personal meaning or attachment.
  • Smell - Foods, flowers, environmental aromas and odors from past activities.
  • Sound - Music, recordings of old time radio (and TV) shows, playing of an instrument.
  • Touch - Feeling textures and objects.
(Sources: Elder Care News, Aging News, SeniorJournal.com, Alzheimers.About.com)