By the time people reach their senior years, they’ve probably heard the standard recommendations for keeping mental abilities sharp and preventing memory issues. Two frequently offered examples include doing crossword puzzles and completing word games. Although this may help to a certain extent, research indicates that regularly having new experiences is essential for maintaining cognitive abilities.
The Importance of Novelty
Seniors who keep working, continue learning new subjects and skills, and seek out new experiences have the advantage of stimulating the brain in ways that don’t otherwise occur. That slows down the aging process in the brain. Without this stimulation of the prefrontal cortex, brain function starts to diminish.
The right brain hemisphere is the side that deals with novelty, whereas the left connects with more routine activity. The right side tends to deteriorate more rapidly than the left during aging. An article in the Harvard Business Review in 2007 explains that this hemisphere is vital for exploring, discovering, learning, and acquiring new skills and knowledge.
This topic should be addressed well before the senior years for people who have gotten into a significant rut. They may go to work and do the same tasks and see the same people every day. At home, they may spend much of their time watching TV or doing other activities they have been focusing on for years. They go to the same restaurants, and they always drive the same streets. That does not provide any challenges for the brain.
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2017 found that working for years in a job that only has simple tasks has adverse effects for the brain. Without enough stimulation, the brain experiences negative changes in its structure and function. It loses volume, as well as the ability to adapt to environmental changes, which is known as neuroplasticity.
One only has to consider how much people are learning and experiencing during their younger years to understand the risk of mental stagnation during middle age. If someone works at a boring job, it’s crucial to come up with interesting and somewhat challenging projects to focus on outside of work.
How to Create New Experiences ad Keep Mental Abilities Sharp in Alaska Seniors
Meeting new people and building new relationships are novel experiences. Older men and women can drift toward isolation, especially as they lose loved ones of their similar age. However, it’s always possible to make new friends and acquaintances.
Even a daily walk can be made new by taking a different route down a previously unknown side street or by stopping somewhere the person has never been before. That might be a store, a park or a cafe.
The best activities for mental stimulation are at least a little bit difficult. The person might take courses at a university or technical college, or attend lectures at which questions and discussions are encouraged.
Other examples of mentally stimulating activities include learning to play a musical instrument or speak a different language. Seniors might take up a creative hobby like photography, oil painting or creative writing. They might practice becoming more skilled at an athletic activity. Volunteer work is another possibility.
There’s no reason to delay getting started on at least one new, exciting experience within the next few days.
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