9 Ways to Keep an Aging Brain Smart

Healthy weight, physical fitness and nutrition are essential as you age. But did you realize they can also help your brain?

elder crossword puzzle

In many ways, the mind is still a scientific mystery and we are constantly trying to understand it more. One thing is certain though: your brain can deteriorate if you don't take care of it. Keeping it healthy will not only help you in your day-to-day activities, but also it can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease or other memory problems. The Alzheimer's Association, Johns Hopkins Health Alerts, and the American Society on Aging are three great resources for information and studies on this important topic.

Here are some easy ways to challenge your brain so it stays strong:

  1. Read
    Reading benefits your mind and memory in ways that watching TV doesn't. The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging found that reading books (in addition to other cognitive activities) can lead to a 50 percent decrease in your chances of developing dementia. Try to open a book for at least half an hour every day. If you find it difficult to read for long periods of time, spread it out over the day or read short stories.

  2. Go Back-to-school
    If you live near a college, university, community college or adult education center, see what your options are for taking classes. Sitting in a classroom and listening and observing can be a fantastic way to learn and test your mind -- and make you feel young again! Many colleges even offer scholarships, tuition waivers or discounts for seniors.

  3. Play Games and Puzzles
    The mind-benders you play with your kids or grandkids aren't just entertaining -- they are good for your brain. According to a study in the Archives of Neurology, playing games can help prevent Alzheimer's. Even a few minutes a day can improve your creativity, memory and decision-making abilities. So pull out an old jigsaw puzzle or open up a magazine or newspaper and try the crossword puzzle or a Sudoku. If you're with friends or family, do some card or board games together as a group. Even strategy-based video games can have a beneficial effect on your brain.

  4. Pick up an Instrument
    Whether you have fond memories of those piano lessons you took as a child, or you've never even seen a sheet of music, now is a great time to sign up for music lessons. Recent studies show that after only four months of playing an instrument an hour a week, seniors experienced improvements in the areas of the brain that control hearing, memory and hand movement. So tune your brain and look into private or group adult music classes through community programs, conservatories with extension programs or even music stores.

  5. Write
    Put down the keyboard and pick up a pencil. A study from the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience shows that handwriting helps stimulate the areas of the brain that deal with thinking, language and memory. Write about memories you have, what's going on around you, something you saw recently or just let your creative juices flow and make up a story.

  6. Sleep
    It's a myth that you need less sleep as you age. When you sleep, your brain has a chance to relax and process everything you did and learned that day. But a study in the Journal of Neuroscience says that as you get older, your brain has difficulty forming these short term memories during sleep. To help prevent this memory loss, you need to sleep -- and sleep well -- for at least seven or eight hours a night. See a doctor if you're having trouble drifting off, as it may be due to health problems, anxiety or even your medication. Or you may just need to change up your sleep routine with some easy tips.

  7. Exercise
    You know you're supposed to exercise. There's no getting around it. But did you know that it's not only good for your body -- it's also good for your brain? Researchers from the University of Arizona have found that aerobic exercise can help combat the effects of an aging on your brain. Physical exercise helps blood flow to your brain, and can reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, along with Alzheimer's and dementia. Whether it's walking, yard work or yoga, do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.

  8. Eat Healthfully
    Scientists have determined that the brain needs the right balance of nutrients to operate well. Numerous studies have proven that a high intake of fats and cholesterol is associated with higher risk for Alzheimer's. Stay away from fried foods and eat more dark fruits and vegetables, fish, lean proteins and nuts. Start with these 18 Quick and Easy Meals for Seniors.

  9. Socialize
    Gathering with a group of friends on a regular basis is not only fun, but also it can help your brain stay sharp. Research published in the May 2012 journal of Experimental Gerontology shows that social relationships can heal aging brains and keep them young. So host a weekly lunch for friends, volunteer at a nearby charity or join local activity groups through your community center or online sites like Meetup. And if you need even more encouragement, people who sustain close friendships and continue to socialize live longer than people who become isolated, says the Yale Medical Center.

The key to maintaining your brain's health is engagement. Through mental, physical and social activity, your brain will stay busy. And developing a routine combining the three can put you at a lower risk for disease and keep your mind sharp as you get older.

Like this? Get more. Sign up for the latest articles, news and tips of your choice. All delivered weekly to your inbox.
Enter your email address:
Comments (6)
Photo of Michelle R.
Michelle R.
I completely agree I've seen it with my own eyes. My friend lived to 94 and he always educated himself by reading health books eating healthy, with an occasional "Big Mac" and he was quite social!
Posted: February 12, 2014 at 8:18 PM
Photo of Marilyn P.
Marilyn P.
I try my best every day to read, but some time I find my self drifting off I. A daze and can't finish, I would really wanna figure out a way so I can get my mind right. My other problem is I can't remember anything and that puzzles me all the time. I'm a certified home Health Aide that love what I do. I know families would love having me apart of there lives.
Posted: February 11, 2014 at 11:44 AM
Renee F.
I am not very old but I do find it is harder to concentrate and remember things. I am in school. Not being able to remember things is very bad. I am going to try out some of these suggestions.
Posted: September 04, 2012 at 10:04 AM
Member Care C.
Hi Janice! I am a Member care representative from Care.com. In order to upload a photo onto your Care.com account, it needs to be a saved file on your desktop. Make sure that the picture file is the correct size (450 pixels x 450 pixels) and click the Upload from your computer button. This pulls up all of the available files on your computer. Select the picture that you want to upload, and open the file. After uploading, it will ask you to position the photo and save it. This will send the photo to our approval queue before it goes live on the site. I hope that this information helps!
Posted: August 21, 2012 at 6:28 PM
Photo of Janice K.
Janice K.
Hi,
I am wondering if anyone else is having difficulty uploading a photo of themself to your site as I am. There seems to be much blocking going on, with the SSL.
I have tried both logging onto facebook, and uploading 3-4 photos a half dozen times. It does not work. Do you have to pay something for some switch to have your photo on your site, besides paying additional for the background check. Please assist me with this process as I am trying to follow your directions and nothing is working. I did manage to get my facebook profile picture onto my desktop. There is some warning about facebook tracking this?
I have only allowed access to friends with my facebook profile, being a woman. I am not comfortable with any other setting. Thank you. Janice K.
Posted: August 20, 2012 at 1:40 PM
Celia L.
I THINK IT IS A A GOOD THING TO READ AND STAY ACTIVE AS YOU GET OLDER,ALSO LISTEN

TO MUSIC AND GET UP AND DANCE BY YOURSELF,YOU'D BE SURPRISED HOW MUCH FUN IT IS.
Posted: July 30, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Leave a Comment
You can post a comment by logging in to your Care.com account or continue as a guest below.
errortext
Email*
Display Name*
Comment*
Success! Your comment is waiting to be approved. It will post soon.
Post another comment

Connect with Care.com

Find the senior care your loved one deserves

I'm looking for:

Senior housing
In-home care
In ZIP Code:
Jody's Blog
Visit Sheila's Blog
Get advice for your family from our founder (and chief mom officer), Sheila Lirio Marcelo.
Sponsored Listings