Use It or Lose It (Improvements toward a Healthier Lifestyle)
With the New Year comes the fresh ‘craze’ for healthy living. It seems that nearly everyone’s New Year’s resolutions include, in some way, a commitment to eat better, exercise more, lose fat, or gain muscle. As seniors, it might not be the best idea to commit to run ten miles each day, but small, improvements toward a healthier lifestyle should be included in every senior’s New Year’s goals.
In her article, Carla Fuentes states: “It is crucial as we age to reap the benefits of being outdoors: the fresh air, exercise, a little bit of sun and activities we love to do. All of these things will help keep us feeling great and help keep our minds and bodies young.”
It shouldn’t be too difficult to set aside some time to walk outside in the fresh air and sunshine. A Health and Wellness website suggests that seniors take walking tours of local attractions. Maybe you haven’t ever gone sightseeing locally. Many people tend to travel yet miss the historic and significant places almost in their own backyard. Maybe you have seen these locations but just haven’t been to see them in a while. The sites you visit don’t even have to be historically significant; they can be sights that are meaningful to you and your loved ones. Visit a childhood home, a park you used to play at, or the ice cream shop you always went to on the weekends. Simply getting out and walking may seem slightly boring, so find a destination, whatever that destination may be, and get outside and enjoy it.
As we age, keeping our minds healthy is just as important as caring for our bodies. The popular saying when it comes to the brain is “use it or lose it.” An article titled Stimulating Mind and Brain Games for Seniors says, “Any game, whether solitary or group based, will provide benefits.” There are thousands of games in the world and hundreds more are created each year. People love games, and there are enough of them out there that everyone can find a game that fits their needs and brings them enjoyment.
Though most mentally or physically stimulating games are good for brain health, the aforementioned article provides specific games that can benefit your brain the most as you age. The article states, “Puzzles such as jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, Soduko and mathematical games focus attention on concentration and memory. Such stimulation to brain cells encourages neuron pathways to continually develop and grow despite cell damage caused by aging, medications, and medical conditions.”
Another way to improve your brain health is by involving yourself with music. A study conducted by a clinical neuropsychologist and cognitive psychologist found that older individuals who spend time studying music during their life, particularly a musical instrument, perform better on cognitive tests than those with little to no musical experience.
The lead researcher, Hanna-Pladdy, PhD, said, “Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging. Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older.”
So, if you know how to play an instrument and haven’t picked it up in a while, now would be a good time to get back into the musical groove. If you never learned to play an instrument but have always wanted to, it’s never too late to learn. Not only is music beautiful but it provides benefits to your mind that are well worth the effort. Instead of keeping the music in your home, you could even choose to go out to musical concerts and thus get yourself out of the house and give your mind the benefits of good music.
I’ve heard it said that if you can play a musical instrument, it’s not too difficult to pick up a foreign language. If you’re looking for a good way to challenge yourself and your mind, start learning a new language. There are many online courses that will teach you many languages for free as well as professional programs, such as Rosetta Stone, that cost between $200 and $500 dollars. You could also try to find a local foreign language class so that you could benefit from participating in a more involved group setting.
Whether it’s choosing to take more walks to intriguing locations, or wanting to enjoy a wider variety of bran stimulating games, or learning to play a new instrument or to speak a new language, every senior should make a new commitment this year to have a healthier lifestyle. We all care about our senior loved ones in our lives and in our communities. They bring us so much wisdom and laughter and love. We want to keep you around as long as possible, so stay healthy, and have a wonderful new year.