The Importance of Cognitive Stimulation for Seniors

From the time we are born until around the age of 45, cognitive abilities like memory, attention and concentration develop and are, for most people, maintained at a healthy level. It’s at around this age that adults begin to see a decline in cognitive abilities, and this will only become more evident as we get older. While this is a normal part of aging, there are cognitive stimulation practices you can do regularly to slow the process of cognitive function. Our brains, just like every other part of our bodies, need regular exercise to stay healthy. With these exercises, we can help to delay this decline in cognitive function and maintain healthy brain function throughout all stages of life.

Below we’ve listed cognitive exercises you can do as often as possible. There are quite a few to choose from, so you should be able to find something that suits you, regardless of your physical abilities.

Crossword puzzles and Sudoku
One of the first signs of decline in cognitive function is a loss for words. We’ve all heard it a dozen times…”I forgot what I was going to say!” Crossword puzzles make you think about the words or phrases based on clues. Even if you have to look something up, your brain is exercising its processing ability. The same cognitive process is used when doing Sudoku puzzles. Sudoku are numbers based puzzles in which the objective is to fill a 9×9 grid with numbers so that each column, each row, and each of the nine 3×3 subgrids contain each of the numbers from 1 to 9.

Reading and Writing
Just like word puzzles, both reading and writing stimulate brain function. Both of these activities stimulate and maintain creativity and concentration. Find a good book at your local library or book store in a genre that you enjoy to help ensure you stay interested. If you can’t get out as much, look into reader devices that allow you to build an online library to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. Write letters and notes to loved ones regularly. These can be in either hand written form or in an email. Doing this also helps you to stay in touch with those you may not be able to speak to or visit as often as you’d like.

Listen to Music
There have been multitudes of studies conducted on the effects music has on the brain. These studies have shown that listening to music improves and helps maintain brain function by stimulating brain cells. It also enhances visual and auditory development, even in our older years. If you are able to get out and see live music performances, even better!

Gardening
Community gardens and gardening clubs are some of the most popular activities among seniors, and many assisted living and senior living facilities offer these activities for good reason. Not only does it provide a way for seniors to get outdoors and interact with nature, it also helps to keep the brain stimulated as well.

Modify Your Daily Routine
As we age, we tend to settle into a certain way of doing things. Day to day activities become a regular routine, and most of those activities are done without even thinking about them. Changing up these norms in your daily routine causes you to pay more attention to what you are doing, helping to increase focus and concentration. If you catch yourself falling back into a routine, change things up again!

There are many other activities you can participate in for mental stimulation including:
Coloring and Drawing
Visiting the theater or cinema
Visit Museums (many are free)
Maintain adequate social relationships
Make crafts

It’s important at this stage in life to keep your brain active and busy. Regardless of which activities you choose, you should try to do at least one everyday. At Highland House, we are committed to providing for the social, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of every individual resident, in a loving, caring environment.