Many people, especially as we get older, worry about becoming forgetful. It can, for instance, be unnerving to find oneself forgetting the name of an acquaintance or losing track of which page you were reading. However, as concerning as these symptoms may seem, they are not always signs of an underlying issue.
For most seniors, occasionally being forgetful—even the name of one’s grandchild—is a normal part of aging. (It’s only when the forgetfulness becomes debilitating should there be a cause for concern.) While there may be no be magical cure to turn back the clocks on their aging cells, it’s never too late for anyone improve their brain health and memory.
However, if you’re concerned about a family member or a loved one who may suffer from memory loss, ask them to see a healthcare practitioner or look into a memory care facility. In the meantime, here are some memory-stimulating activities you can encourage them to try.
Exercise the body
As humans age, blood flow to the brain decreases. This seems to have a negative impact on memory as well as general cognitive abilities. Given the green light from a family doctor, some light aerobic exercise is the way to go to keep elderly patients’ circulation and memory strong as they age. Aquafit, for instance, is a great way to improve endurance, flexibility, strength without sacrificing their joints—and they’ll reap the added benefits of stress relief.
Seniors are known for keeping odd hours that would seemed unfathomable to many of their younger selves. This is because many begin to experience difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep due to changes to their circadian rhythms. However, some research shows that sleep issues plaguing older adults can also be linked to medication used to treat physical or psychiatric illnesses.
It’s important for patients to consult with a doctor if they’re experiencing sleep deprivation, however trivial it may seem. Older adults still require similar amounts of quality sleep as they did when they were younger. Ignoring sleeping issues can have a negative impact on memory and physical health in the long run.
You are what you eat
The most sophisticated cocktail of vitamins won’t make up for an unhealthy diet. Eating well has a direct impact on how we age; it’s never too late for anyone to improve their diets. Omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, vitamins B, C and D3 should all be a regular part of a senior’s eating plan via whole foods such as leafy greens, fish, citrus fruits, and more.
Keep in mind that some seniors might still experience issues (e.g., vitamin B12 deficiency), despite eating well if they have underlying physiological issues (e.g., a lack of stomach acid). This condition impacts up to 30 percent of seniors, such as those who take stomach-acid suppressing medications like antacids or H2 blockers. So, it’s important to go over blood work with a physician in order to make any necessary changes.
Studies have shown that reading is linked to a decrease in future memory loss. It helps to keep the brain nimble in order to improve word recall, whether the choice of literature is a newspaper, a book or a magazine. It might be harder to stay focused as people age, but the effort is well worth it.
Reading isn’t the only activity that deserves a mention when it comes to fun ways to improve memory. As cliché as it may be, card games like poker and bridge are an excellent way for seniors to socialize and keep their mind active. If they live in a retirement community, they can look into forming a group that meets once a week.
It’s never too late to learn something new. Seniors can try tackling a demanding challenge that requires regular practice, such as learning a new instrument. It’s definitely one way to keep the brain engaged. It can also be a great conversation starter, as well as a social activity if they decide to get together with other musicians and play together as a band or in an ensemble.
Pick up a new language
French class might have been the bane of your existence back in the eighth grade; however, for seniors who are looking to put a hold on memory loss, learning a new language can be an attractive option—especially since grades no longer matter. While some aspects of language learning, such as syntax or grammar, become more difficult as people age, other aspects like vocabulary acquisition can actually become easier.
Aging can be very lonely at times, but volunteering is a good way to get out, try new activities and meet new people of different ages and backgrounds. This is important because socializing helps keep the mind active and stimulates emotions and natural human impulses. There are many different types of organizations out there for seniors, whether they’re interested in cooking, sports or technology.
There’s a lot you can do to help
These are just a few examples of all the ways older adults can help keep their memory sharp as they age. While some memory decline is natural when age, there’s a lot you can do to help. Using the brain in a different way and breaking out of old routines is the best way to keep it sharp.