Mind Over Matter

illustration of xray of brain, with the brain in orange and person in blue

The marvels of modern medicine have increased our longevity. With that gift of living longer, the focus is now shifting to the important goal of improving the quality of our lives as we age. We know that exercising the body helps keep us healthy by regulating our weight, improving our circulation and strengthening our immune system – but what about our brain? As we age, the brain loses its neuroplasticity and overall synaptic nerve connections decrease. This can result in slower memory retrieval and reaction times, decreased attention span and focus and reduced problem solving capacity. These symptoms are more enhanced and progress quicker with degenerative brain diseases. These brain disturbances directly affect one’s ability to perform life’s daily activities and is often the reason why seniors need to hire caregivers or move into an assisted living community.  

This is where mind over matter comes into play. There is a growing body of research that regular brain exercise through cognitively stimulating activities can slow the development of negative cognitive changes. According to numerous studies, including a study published in Neurology. high lifetime intellectual engagement was associated with higher levels of cognitive functioning. It also showed that the effect of mid- to late-life cognitive activity was strongly associated with slowing cognitive decline. This means that it is never too late to start training your brain!

Popular brain games include crossword puzzles, card games and computer training games as well as using the creative sides of the brain that bring joy, like storytelling, literature, poetry, dancing and art. Engaging in these activities in a social setting and getting feedback and interaction from friends, family and caregivers enhances the effects of the enrichment and reduces social isolation. So, as you go about your daily life – don’t forget to challenge yourself, connect with others and play – it’s good for mind, body and soul!

Written by Anne Sansevero

HealthSense is pleased to announce its MindSense Cognitive Enrichment Program, which uses storytelling, computer programs, puzzles and games, arts and crafts, literature and many other tools to enrich the health of the brain. It is led by Emily Scholler, who has developed a wide range of  customized and innovative cognitive enrichment programs that she matches to a client’s unique abilities and interests.