We can remember long, long ago when we were children in a land far, far away, testing the bounds of authority and practicing our verbal skills. Our parents would say, "Don't get smart with me!" or “Don't be such a Smarty Pants!" However, now that we are Boomers in our 60s, we've learned from the school of hard knocks and blunt force trauma, that the more we know and learn, the fewer bruises our bodies and minds collect along life's way.
Not only that, exercising our minds as part of our helps keep us younger, and we totally enjoy getting smart with our friends. We have regular Monday night meetings at Bethesda Senior Center to do just that! As we age, we hold dear to phrases like, "Use it, or lose it!", and "If it feels good, keep doing it." So, together we practice both. We exercise our minds, and feel better for it. Let the games begin!
The secret is out: Gerontologists -- a job description and a big word for those who study man's aging process -- have categorized several areas of our lives within which we should play in order to maintain our mental fitness. Depending on your source (and here is our source: Activities That Stimulate Cognition in the Elderly) there are five, fabulous, fun brain strengthening behaviors. One is to drink a quart of Ensure every day -- NO, just kidding! But here they are (if we can remember them!) in no special order:
1) Playing board games -"Playing board games such as Monopoly, chess, checkers, and Scrabble are cognitive activities that stimulate brain activity and are associated with reduced rates of memory loss, according to a study in the June 2003 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine." When you first start learning a new game, try not to play for money…
2) Dancing - "People who dance frequently show a reduced incidence of dementia, according to the spring 2007 issue of AARP magazine. Ballroom dancing requires coordination between the feet and the brain. Learning the different dance steps stimulates the brain. Dancing is a good cardiovascular workout that increases blood flow to the brain.” It's also a good way to pick up chicks!
3) Solving Puzzles - "Crossword puzzles are popular memory exercises. They challenge the memory and keep the brain fit, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The American Health Assistance Foundation's Alzheimer's Disease Research program also recommends playing Sudoku to exercise the brain and help memory and cognitive functioning." Both are logic puzzles; one with letters, and the other with numbers.
4) Reading - "Reading involves language and cognition that exercises the brain. A study at the Mayo Clinic found that middle-aged people who read books or magazines are less likely to develop memory loss." This also means, once you set a book down, it's easier to remember where you put it!
5) Playing a musical instrument - "Music can make you smarter, according to Lutz Jancke, professor of neuropsychology at ETH Zurich. The physical act of playing an instrument changes the anatomy of the brain. The area of the brain used for processing music also is involved in memory and language skills." 1960s music, Disco, Motown, story-telling ballads, and Buffet that you can dance to are our personal favorites!
So you probably have a couple of brain simulating activities of your own. Think fast -- what are they? You're not in "Jeopardy" yet! You can get smart with us, if you want to!
Sheri and Bill