As people age, it’s important that they take care of their brain health and do certain activities to keep memory sharp. Staying mentally active can be a challenge if you’re retired or if you lack the social stimulation you had in your youth, but there are exercises that can help keep your brain functioning properly even from the privacy of your home.
Combined with good foods, nutritional supplements, and exercise, these 10 brain exercises can keep your mind sharp and your mood positive.
10 Brain Exercises for Seniors
Strategy games are a great way to boost your memory and increase intelligence. Online games are especially convenient since they can be easily used almost anywhere!
If you have a smartphone, you can download and use your favorite game wherever you are. And, best of all, there is a large diversity of different brain games available that cater to all kinds of interests and preferences.
Chess is one of the oldest strategy games out there, and because of its popularity, it’s easy to find a free online version or to find a partner to play with.
Another fantastic brain game is Sudoku. This game exercises the brain’s ability to recognize patterns and solve problems using strategy. There are lots of online Sudoku games available both on the computer and for smartphones, and many seniors really enjoy the relaxing yet mentally stimulating effects of this game.
2. Word Games
Word games are great for seniors who want to improve their brain health while also increasing or exercising their vocabulary. The diversity of word games is nearly endless, so there’s something for everyone.
Word games help keep your language skills sharp while also stimulating problem-solving areas of the brain.
Word searches are popular games that improve your ability to see patterns. There are books of word searches available as well as phone apps and online word search games such as the USA Today Daily Word Search.
Scrabble is a particularly fun word game that can be played against a computer or with a friend, so in addition to improving mental acuity, it also offers the opportunity for socialization!
This game can help seniors build their vocabulary and improve memory, and it can also be a lot of fun to play against others to test your knowledge.
Words and language skills play an important role in maintaining brain health. Studies have shown that people who are bilingual have a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease than individuals who know only one language.
Indeed, people who have a lot of risk factors for Alzheimer’s, but who know more than one language fluently often experience a delay in the onset of dementia symptoms. So keep those language skills sharp to maintain the health of your brain!
Music is incredibly therapeutic not only for the brain, but also for the whole body. Adopting a regular routine of listening to, dancing to, or playing music presents an array of amazing benefits!
Studies have shown that listening to classical music can be very soothing and can improve brain functionality in people of all ages, but listening to your favorite music, no matter what genre it is, can also maintain and even improve brain health.
In addition to increasing intelligence and memory, listening to music regularly can also improve sleep (which is another way to keep your brain healthy), reduce pain and blood pressure, decrease depression, improve your immune function, and reduce the symptoms of diseases such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and other types of dementia. Music can even help keep your socialization skills sharp!
You’re never too old to learn a musical instrument or to cultivate an appreciation for music.
Today, there are musical selections that have been designed to promote certain brain-waves and states of mind that can heal the brain. Do a search for “brainwave music” on Google to learn more about the possibilities that are available today to build your brain using vibrational frequencies that have been tested to promote states of relaxation, wakefulness, or “flow”.
Gardening is an excellent activity for seniors. It can improve overall physical health as well as brain health, and it’s particularly good for seniors who need to find a way to bring down blood pressure or reduce anxiety symptoms, since it’s very relaxing.
Because gardening is a physical activity and because it requires dexterity, problem solving skills, and can engage almost all the senses, it is a perfect way to improve brain health and prevent degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
In addition to improving brain health, gardening can improve heart health, diminish stress by reducing cortisol levels, improve mood and decrease depression symptoms, and help seniors maintain and even improve their mobility well into older age.
And scientists have proven that the earth emits electromagnetic waves that energize human cells and have a healing impact on the whole body. Working with the soil and plants will have a holistic impact on your health, which will translate into various cognitive rewards at the same time.
5. Cooking Classes
Cooking is a fun and creative way for you to actively engage your brain. Because cooking is such a dynamic activity that involves the use of math, problem-solving, sensory awareness, and memory abilities, it’s a perfect way for seniors to improve brain health.
Taking a cooking class is one of the best ways to really “cash in” on the brain benefits of cooking! Learning something new on a regular basis is a tried-and-true method for maintaining excellent brain health at any age.
It’s possible to take cooking classes in-person or online, depending on your preferences, and there are many different cuisines to choose from. No matter whether you want to learn the basics of cooking or the intricacies of French culinary techniques, there’s a cooking class that will suit your interests. For example, Sault Online offers a different line-up of cooking classes each week, taught by different teachers and designed specifically for seniors.
If you want to promote good brain and body health for yourself, one of the best ways to do it is to do regular, light-to-moderate exercise daily.
The benefits of exercise on the brain are so profound that researchers have found that seniors who exercise regularly are significantly less likely to develop dementia than other seniors who don’t.
Exercise promotes blood flow to the brain and it moves lymph fluids in the body to keep overall health intact. And exercise requires balance and unconscious movement skills that keep different parts of the brain working hard that could otherwise atrophy if not used on a regular basis. And exercise can take you places! It gives you a reason to go outdoors or visit a gym where you can socialize or just observe your natural surroundings.
Consider joining a walking group or yoga class so that your exercise routine is socially satisfying and dynamic enough to keep your brain and body engaged on multiple levels.
Joining some kind of exercise group is fun, but it will also hold you accountable and ensure that you keep up with your routine regularly. And, you might make some friends along the way, which will lead to stimulating conversations and greater happiness (also proven ways to improve brain health).
Though not all seniors will find writing to be a fun activity, some seniors may find a great deal of enjoyment in writing as a way to take care of their brain health.
A regular practice of journaling is one way to incorporate writing into your daily routine and is a good way to help you remember events or emotions each day and to organize your thoughts.
Some seniors may find that writing short stories, a blog with informative content, or something else more creative may also be enjoyable.
If you’ve never tried writing, joining a writing group or a writing class may be a good way to explore writing as a potential new hobby. Additionally, learning a new skill helps seniors with memory and brain abilities.
Writing as a part of a group can be a very deep experience socially and it can help you explore emotional content that might otherwise gum up your thinking during the day. So if you’ve never tried writing as a hobby, it’s never too late to give it a try!
Reading is a pastime for many people, and because reading is relaxing, engaging, and frequently educational, it’s the perfect balance to help seniors improve brain health.
There are many different books out there, from fiction books to educational texts, so there’s something for everyone. Reading can also lower stress and anxiety, which is another reason why reading is so great for seniors, since high stress levels can impede brain function and can also contribute to other health issues.
There have been studies showing that a regular reading habit throughout life can result in a lower likelihood of developing dementia and other degenerative diseases in older age. But, even if you haven’t been a reader for your whole life and this is a new hobby, reading at any age will improve your brain’s health.
Today there are technologies like Kindles and iPads that can bring a wide library of different texts into your home in one small package. Kindles and iPads also have the advantage of offering larger scripts for people with diminishing eyesight.
9. Arts and Crafts
Although the connection between art and brain health isn’t necessarily immediately obvious, many researchers have shown that art and artistic expression can be one of the most vital and essential tools for the development and maintenance of a healthy brain.
The viewing of art, as well as the creation of art, involves the use of multiple systems, including the attentional, cognitive, emotional, sensory, and motor capacity systems. The integrated use of all of these systems contributes to a healthier brain that makes and maintains connections more effectively.
Visiting an art museum is an obvious way to involve art in your life in a way that is relaxing yet mentally stimulating. But, if you don’t have many art museums in your area (or if you’ve already visited all of them before), joining an art class, drawing group, or some other similar club is a fantastic way to use art as a way to improve your cognitive abilities.
While art may not be for everyone, there are few people who don’t enjoy a good craft project! Make jewelry, take up woodworking, sew clothes, or learn crochet or some other type of needlework to decorate your space or spruce up your wardrobe.
Craft activities can be creative to engage the right brain, but they also require logic and problem-solving to keep the left brain active at the same time. Choose craft activities that are motivating for you and don’t be afraid to do something entirely new to give yourself a chance to learn something new.
Puzzles have been a favorite activity for people both young and old for many, many years. There are many different kinds of puzzles of varying difficulty levels, and they can be done either on an electronic device or using an actual physical puzzle, depending on which you prefer and which is more convenient for you.
Puzzles require the “player” to recognize patterns and use logic to solve problems. They also involve the visual sense, which makes this a more integrated sensory experience in terms of brain games.
Besides the classic piece puzzles, there are starting to be more and more different kinds of “puzzles” on the market as well! If you like to work with your hands, and benefit most from activities that involve both mental and physical engagement, then puzzles may be the best choice for you if you want to improve your brain health using a game.
Other Ways to Help the Brain
In addition to the above listed activities, there are a number of important lifestyle and dietary changes that can make a big difference in boosting brain health in seniors. Don’t underestimate the power of healthy brain foods and supplements along with a good night of sleep to make big changes in how well your brain is functioning!
Foods for Brain Health and Memory
At the top of the list of essential food items for enhancing cognitive performance in seniors are proteins and amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and without the proper amount and type of proteins in the diet, seniors will inevitably experience cognitive decline.
Meats and animal products contain the highest-quality amino acids, but you should always take pancreatic enzyme supplements if they eat meats and animal products. While the animal products will significantly enhance cognitive functioning in the elderly, the pancreatic enzymes will lower your cancer risk by reducing the amount of work the pancreas has to do to digest these foods.
Green tea combines really well with the brain-boosting supplement Mucuna pruriens by helping to make dopamine and other neurotransmitters more bioavailable in brain tissues. Not only does green tea contain a bit of caffeine to promote wakefulness, but it also contains polyphenols and tannins that help keep glucose levels steady in the brain and that can even protect brain tissues from damage if a stroke occurs.
Studies have shown that turmeric decreases beta-amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s patients while reducing inflammation and the formation of microglia in the brain. Turmeric (or curcumin) can be eaten in food or taken as a supplement to promote brain health in seniors.
Supplements and Nootropics for Brain Health and Memory
Below are some of the most important supplements for increasing brain health and memory in elderly individuals. If you or a loved one is having trouble sleeping, feeling depressed, or having trouble with general cognitive function, consider taking some of the supplements and nootropics listed below.
Mucuna pruriens is a bean plant that can be crushed into a powder and either eaten or taken as a supplement in pill form. The bean contains high levels of L-Dopa, the nutritional precursor of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that makes people feel motivated, wakeful, and interested.
When dopamine levels are low, people may feel depressed, they have restless legs, and some may even develop the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease or Lewy Body Disease.
Pharmaceutical companies have manufactured a synthetic version of L-Dopa called Levodopa that causes serious side effects when the drug is taken for long periods of time but the L-Dopa in Mucuna pruriens has a much higher safety profile than Levodopa.
People young and old in Central America eat these beans daily as part of their diet with no adverse effects! People in the U.S. take the bean powder in pill form to boost mood, memory, and brain health.
Semax is a nootropic that is listed as one of the Essential Medicines of Russia because of its ability to repair brain tissue following stroke. Semax is a peptide segment that increases Brain Derived Neurotopic Factor (BDNF) in the brain to spur the growth of new neurons in individuals who have experienced stroke or brain injury. It may be taken on an as needed basis, or daily for 10 days to spur lasting repair of damaged brain tissues.
Not so long ago, it was common practice for doctors to administer vitamin B12 shots to people over 55 years of age at every doctor’s appointment regardless of whether they seemed to be deficient in this vitamin or not.
It is common knowledge that a deficiency of vitamin B12 is more common in older individuals because the digestive system gets less efficient at absorbing this vitamin as people age. Older individuals who receive B12 injections are far less likely to develop vitamin B12-related dementia (which looks exactly like other types of dementia like Alzheimer’s) if they’ve been given annual or bi-annual vitamin B12 shots. But insurance companies no longer cover these injections so doctors no longer offer them to older patients at every visit.
If your doctor hasn’t offered you vitamin B12 or if he or she simply won’t give you a vitamin B12 shot because it’s no longer common practice to administer this brain-health vitamin, but you suspect that you may have a deficiency of it, seek out a private company that provides boutique intravenous therapy instead.
A Myer’s Cocktail drip that contains both magnesium and vitamin B12 along with other essential vitamins and minerals will make it worth your while and spur better brain health and memory almost immediately.
B Complex Vitamins
In order for supplements like Mucuna pruriens to work properly, you need a healthy amount of B complex vitamins, especially vitamin B6! Without vitamin B6 and the other B vitamins, your body may not be able to make use of the L-Dopa in Mucuna pruriens to convert it into dopamine.
If you or someone you love is experiencing cognitive decline, this could be related to sleep problems. Magnesium deficiency is rampant in the United States and low levels of Magnesium can lead to heart and blood vessel issues that can ultimately make it hard for the muscles to relax!
Magnesium has a relaxing effect on the body and enhances brain health by promoting the conversion of precursors into neurotransmitters and by opening up the blood vessels in the brain. Taking high doses of Magnesium Chloride can even lower blood pressure and make it possible for elderly individuals to stop taking prescription medications for high blood pressure.
Iodine deficiency is another little-known, but very common problem in the United States. Fluorine in the water and bromine in citrus soft drinks and bread products (as brominated vegetable oil or BVO), flame retardants in clothing and furnishings, and insecticides used on fresh fruits and vegetables compete with iodine in the body which can lead to brain fog and obesity issues.
To combat the effects of fluorine and bromine on the brain and body, an iodine supplement must contain both iodine and potassium iodide to be effective. Start with a low dose of an iodine-potassium iodide product and work up to 50 mg per day.
Research has shown that a deficiency of selenium plays a role in the development of Parkinson’s Disease, Lewy Body Disease, Alzheimer’s, Epilepsy, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
Without glutathione, toxins build up in brain cells which ultimately leads to cognitive disease and decline. Glutathione is extremely important for brain health but be sure to find a supplement that’s administered in liquid form under the tongue. Glutathione pills are not very bioavailable.
Benefits of Sleep for the Brain
Without adequate sleep, the brain doesn’t function properly. Sleep and healthy brain function go together. So if you suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome or a sleep apnea, and you’re also experiencing brain fog, depression, or poor memory during the day, the disrupted sleep probably plays a big role in your reduced brain functioning.
Some of the supplements listed above like Magnesium and Mucuna pruriens can help you sleep better, but below are some additional supplements that can help you get the sleep you need to feel okay with the world and to think clearly during the day.
During the day, the brain produces serotonin. At night, the brain takes this serotonin and converts it into melatonin, an essential sleepy-time neurotransmitter that makes you feel more relaxed and restful when your body is exposed to darkness.
Taking melatonin about an hour before bed will help cue your body to know when it’s time to sleep. And melatonin is neuroprotective which means that it will protect the brain from damage due to stroke or toxic chemical exposure.
Magnolia bark promotes sleep by working with opiate receptors in the brain, but it is not, itself, an opiate. In other words, this plant acts like an opiate, but it isn’t addictive and in fact it can help protect the brain from stress. This is a powerful, natural sleep medicine that will help you stay asleep once you’ve fallen asleep.