Of course, octogenarian is just a $50 word for people in their80’s. You’ve seen or read about these people. They are the ones who are still lively and sharp and just seem to keep on going, no matter how many birthday candles are on their cakes. The interesting thing is their stories are not always tales of eating right and early bedtimes. Some of these folk are life long smokers, alcohol drinkers and eaters of all kinds of foods many health experts would tell you to shun. Curious-er and Curious-er.
Clearly aging is a little different for everyone, because how it presents itself for each of us is dependent on the combination of our genetic make-up and the lifestyle we have chosen. Most intriguing–how does a person stay sharp? I have a dear friend in her early 80’s who is still a serious Scrabble and Bridge champion. One of her secrets is to change things around, whether it is the furniture arrangement in her living room, or trying new recipes. She does not do much the way it has always been done.
She came to mind while reading about mind games seniors can play to keep their wits laser sharp. These mind games are actually a kind of mental gymnastics specifically created to help a person maintain brain health and mental powers. The following examples are used at Wayne State University in Michigan to help seniors exercise their grey matter.
- Use your non-dominant hand to do something, such as brush your teeth with the hand you don’t normally use. (This is hard for this 50-something to do.)
- Practice reading upside down.
- Play conversation games with a partner where each of you vow to omit a common word from your conversation, such as “and” or “that.” Then for the next 5 minutes of conversation, each participant counts how many times the other person accidentally uses the forbidden word. Low score wins.
- Watch part of a film or TV show with no sound and see if you can follow along.
The reason for increased interest in exercising our mental powers is because scientists have fairly recently determined we can truly do this. The old notion was we’re born with our brain’s ability and after a certain age, it would begin to decrease. Now, researchers have concluded we can keep learning and improving our mental powers all our lives. Scientists call this “neuroplasticity,” meaning a brain continues to create new connections and new neural pathways, as long as the user continues to “exercise” it, usually though continual learning and challenging thought.
Home Care Assistance and Dr. Sam Gontkovsky, formerly of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, created the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM) to help seniors maintain and expand cognitive ability. Designed to delay the onset of and theprogression of dementia symptoms, CTM is enjoyable activities which enable participants to exercise reasoning, visual perception, language comprehension and memory. Instead of a series of tests with scored answers,CTM’s activities can be tailored to the abilities and needs of each individual, on a spectrum of complete cognitive capability to more severe symptoms of dementia. Unlike an Internet-based computer game system, our program’s challenging mental exercises are presented in-person, one-on-one, which both helps overcome low-motivation and allows for encouragement and real-time, as needed, adjustment tolevels of difficulty.
However you choose to hone your mental powers, the key is to do it consistently and as part of your life. Make it fun and make challenging. One last thing—on occasion, make it a group effort, because staying connected to people of many ages is another way to up your mental game.
Sources: Home Care Assistance, Cognitive Therapeutics Method; Detroit Free Press, “Mind Games,” by Robin Erb.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about our exclusive Cognitive Therapeutics Method, please call Lee, at 402-762-9140, or click here.
Photo Credit: “A board game impersonating a video game,” by Jamie McCaffrey