As we age, the brain gets smaller and lighter, so keeping mentally fit is important to maintaining cognitive function and quality of life when ageing. There are numerous age-related changes that occur to our brains that can impact this function:
· Neurones that die off are no longer replaced
· Loss of neurones result in shrinking of the brain
· Messaging in the brain’s neurones are sent at slower speeds
Mental fitness also has direct impacts on your emotional state. When we start to feel our brain slowing and our changes happening to our abilities and speed, we can feel overwhelmed and disheartened. It can also limit the activities that we can participate in, and can largely affect quality of life. Keeping mentally fit while ageing is important for not only your health, but keeping your emotional state in tip-top condition. Happy body, happy brain, happy life!
If you are noticing changes in your own cognitive function, or the function of a loved one, don’t stress. While changes in our mind and body are inevitable through ageing, there are certain changes that we can slow down as time goes on through different activities and habits.
Exercise provides an important service to not only our bodies, but our minds. At least 30 minutes a day delivers an important oxygen boost to the brain, which overtime, can improve memory, reasoning abilities, and reaction times. If you can’t manage 30 minutes a day, any light exercise that can be managed is better than none! This could be swimming exercises, a walk through the park, or there are even options for seated exercises for those with low mobility.
Maintaining as much of a social life as possible is extremely important to staying mentally fit and healthy. Stimulating conversation and engaging in a wide variety of social activities helps keep your brain active. This helps feelings of isolation and loneliness, but also may lower the risk of certain mental conditions and improve cognitive function. Try visiting family members as much as possible, or asking them to come and visit you if travelling is difficult. Video chat or a simple phone call is also a great way to stay in touch during the pandemic or with family members who don’t live nearby.
If you’re living in an aged care facility or retirement community, such as Seasons, making friends with neighbours and staff is also an easy and accessible way to stay social when others are unable to visit. Most communities and facilities have activities that are run for residents to interact with each other, which is important for staying social in your every day life.
Meditation and Tai Chi
Stress can have irreversible impacts on our body and mind. Chronic stress can affect memory retention and even increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. Practising meditation or activities such as Tai Chi can help slow the mind and restore a sense of cognitive wellbeing. Tai Chi is mind and body practice that centre’s around slowing breathing patterns, maintaining mental focus, and inducing relaxation. The benefits have been shown to include reduced stress, improved cognitive function, and even improvements in balance and stability. All these effects are linked to brain health and staying mentally fit in elderly people.
If you are concerned about your brain health and are looking for more ways to maintain mental fitness and cognitive function, consult your GP. Starting these habits early is very important, as trying to reverse signs of ageing is a lot more difficult. Taking care of your brain is important for preserving day to day life and staying happy and healthy.