It's never too early or too late to focus on brain health. Cognitive decline is part of life for many seniors, especially those over 80, but there are ways to mitigate it, even if you're already experiencing problems with recall or visualization. Here are a few brain games and activities you can use to improve your brain health:
Crossword puzzles are a popular, easy way to get your brain working and to improve mental health. In order to successfully complete a crossword puzzle, you'll need to apply spatial reasoning, recall and word association skills. Go online or pick up the local paper to find a crossword puzzle, or buy a game book to gain access to dozens at a time.
"You'll exercise your abilities in spatial reasoning and visualization."
Solving a jigsaw puzzle is a great way to boost brain health on your own or with a partner. You'll exercise your abilities in spatial reasoning and visualization to imagine the final image before you've completed the puzzle. It's also a great time to socialize with others, which also improves cognitive health.
If crosswords aren't your thing, but you'd still like to work on your word association skills, word searches may just be the right fit. When working on a word search, you'll engage your brain by focusing on pattern recognition.
For those who prefer working with numbers, Sudoku may be what you've been searching for. It combines math and logical reasoning and has a wide range of difficulty options, so whether you're a novice or a pro, you'll never run out of options. If math isn't your strong suit, don't worry. Sudoku math itself isn't that tough – it's more about solving the puzzle with logic.
"Write the great American novel and feel your mind opening as you explore the endless story options."
While not designed specifically to stretch your brain's abilities, creative activities such as playing music, painting, drawing and writing all increase brain activity, even if you're not a pro. Take that painting class you've been thinking about and you'll feel your brain working in different ways, sparking your creativity.
If you play an instrument, make that part of your normal life; write the great American novel and feel your mind opening as you explore the endless story options you can create for your characters. While you're typing away, don't forget to keep notes or to journal using a pen and paper, too. Writing down your thoughts can be both cathartic and energizing, as you engage different parts of your brain. Writing at any level exercises the links between neural pathways and your hands. When writing by hand, you also exercise your motor skills.
It's not exactly a game, but exercise is key to keeping your brain fired up throughout your life. Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can actually increase the size of your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for learning and verbal recall.
It also helps relieve anxiety and depression, as aerobic exercise releases serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which all improve mood. You've probably experienced this firsthand – when you've been worried or feeling low, something as simple as a walk can help clear your head and put things in perspective.
When focusing on brain health, don't forget the connections between physical activity and your mind. You'll improve heart health, weight management and mood all at once.
There's no wrong time to take care of your brain, and so many options to choose from. From puzzles to socializing and fitness, choose what appeals to you and get going.