They say that everything shrinks with age, and while that statement is not universally true, it is certainly accurate in terms of mental acuity. Brain atrophy is a serious issue that affects almost all seniors, especially those between 70 and 80. By this time, the brain may be over 15 percent smaller than it was at age 25. Symptoms include not only irritating disorientation and confusion, but also a loss of interest in formerly-treasured activities and an overall lack of motivation.
In general, one of the best ways to keep seniors mentally sharp is to keep them in their homes as long as possible. Simple gestures, such as providing one of the best shower mats for seniors, go a long way. Items like these not only give seniors more confidence, but also provide caregivers with additional peace of mind.
Specifically, there are some things to do as well.
There is definitely a connection between physical movement, which is not necessarily the same thing as physical exercise, and mental health. The motion helps with the little things, like memory, as well as the larger issues, such as depression.
The occasional swing dance, a daily walk around the block, and parking far away from the door at the doctor’s office are some good ways to increase movement. If mobility is an issue, try water aerobics or chair exercises. Almost any movement will do.
Keep Family Ties Strong
It may sound trite, but most seniors really do have a great deal to share with other family members, and we aren’t talking about ad nauseum stories regarding “the good old days.”
These bonds can be especially strong with adult children, because parent and child have so many shared experiences. Grandparent-grandchild bonds can be strong as well, but they take some effort. Simply being a babysitter is not enough. Make sure grandpa takes the grandchildren out or interacts with them at home. If fatigue is an issue, and it often is, simply keep the visits short.
Senior Center Activities
One of the reasons brain atrophy sets in at this age is that the brain gets so little exercise, and it becomes flabby just like any other muscle. An arts and craft activity or a lecture helps seniors keep their minds engaged, and also gives them a chance to socialize with other people.
Many senior centers even offer transportation if needed, so do a little research.
Stay in Touch
Seniors don’t need to leave their living rooms to learn about Skype or FaceTime…they only need semi-patient instructors. Teaching your mom to use an iPad is a lot like her teaching you to drive. There will be some fits and starts, but it will not take long before Mom is reasonably tech-savvy.
As an added bonus, these tools are a great way to communicate with far-flung loved ones. Encourage your senior to set weekly call times.
Engage with Friends
Not all friends are far-flung. Many are the neighbors that have lived two doors down since the Earth cooled. These ties are important as well, because many seniors simply do not feel an emotional connection over a videoconference line, but they do feel that connection in a person-to-person setting.
These friends are probably in the same physical and mental boat, so the social interaction is good for everyone involved.
Caring for a pet keeps the brain engaged, because it gives a senior daily tasks to perform at specific times, or else the resident four-legged friend will not be so friendly.
Both dogs and cats have other emotional benefits as well, such as less agitation, better overall mood, and increased willingness to socialize.
We all want to take good care of the seniors in our lives, but sometimes it’s best not to rush to the rescue every time car keys get lost or panic if a doctor’s appointment is missed. Instead, empower and encourage your senior to remain independent, and you’ll both be the better for it.