By, Elder Care Coordinator Dana Marcinka, MSW
Mental stimulation plays a large role in the cognitive health of seniors. Just as the body needs physical exercise to keep fit, the brain needs mental exercise to stay active and thriving. Mental exercise is comprised of improving your cognitive skills. These skills include reasoning, awareness, perception, and judgment. With refining each of these skills it allows for enhanced processing of information received from your five senses. There are many types of activities to help maintain and improve our cognitive abilities. A basic everyday activity that helps strengthen cognitive skills is a simple conversation, as meaningful dialogue exchange aids in a senior’s feeling of self-worth, along with facilitating an expressive relationship. In addition to verbal stimulation, there are many other mental exercises we can use to sharpen our cognitive skills.
Dr. John E Morley, MD, director of St Louis University’s Division of Geriatric Medicine recommends the following exercises to enhance mental skills:
- Test your recall. Make a list of daily tasks, grocery list, a recipe, or anything else that comes to mind. Memorize it. In an hour or so, test your recall. See how many items you can recollect.
- Let the music play. Play music with the intent of listening to all of the words. Hearing the vocabulary of a song stimulates and activates the brain. It also captivates the individual listening, producing positive feelings.
- Do math in your head. During the day get your brain going by testing yourself. Without the use of a pen and paper, measure you mathematical skills.
- Create word pictures. Visualize a word in your head, then try and spell it. It is also helpful to think of an everyday item, visualize it and then spell it.
- Refine your hand-eye abilities. Improving your fine motor skills is essential to cognitive stimulation. Manual dexterity advances muscular, skeletal and neurological functions. Take up a hobby such as drawing, painting, knitting, board games, puzzles, etc.
Taking strides to brain health assists in physical and mental strength and it also encourages your mind to keep active and alert while being engaged in life. Each activity and exercise should always be age-appropriate for seniors, as it is important to maintain an individual’s independence and self-confidence.