Exercising the brain

Just as regular physical exercise is required for a healthy, fit and strong body; mental exercise is essential to retain and even enhance cognitive powers for elderly citizens. Ageing is usually associated with several physical and mental disabilities, reducing the general quality of life for the elderly. Although these disabilities cannot be completely avoided, their occurrence can be significantly delayed. Mental problems such as lethargic thinking, memory loss, reduced cognition, absentmindedness, poor judgment and childish behavior are quite common. Severe mental illnesses such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and amnesia can spoil any chances of living a long, healthy and happy life.

It is therefore imperative to use the brain to accomplish a variety of tasks, the alternative being losing mental control altogether. Several exercises can jog the memory, and keep it strong and functioning properly. Our brain is a magnificent masterpiece, with several disparate functions for handling tasks such as remembering events, logical analysis, verbal ability, body movements, perception, time-space distinction, structure and shape recognition, and sensory representation. Brain exercises aim to enhance all these areas of the mind, which tend to diminish over time.

The following exercises should be performed by the elderly to maintain cerebral fitness by building new brain cells and keeping the mind alive:

  • Improving memory – There are four main types of memory, short term, long term, visual and auditory, which need to be improved by the elderly.a) Short-term memory – This type of memory is a volatile working memory, lasting only for a few seconds or minutes. If someone utters a statement, you can remember the exact contents of the statement for a brief period of time. To improve this memory, try to pay attention to and then recall specific words spoken by an individual.

    b) Long-term memory – This type of memory can last for days, weeks and even years. To improve this type, try to memorize a statement or a list of unrelated objects, and then recall them after a week or a month.

    c) Visual memory – This type of memory is used to remember objects or people we see. To improve this type, try to remember faces of strangers, or new people you meet, along with their names. Try recalling the image of the face associated with each name. You can even try this with different objects.

    d) Auditory memory – This type of memory helps you remember what you have heard. To improve this memory, listen to a speech or news on the radio, and try to understand the meaning. Try to recall the news or speech after a few days. You can even try identifying people by hearing their voice on the telephone.

  • Logical analysis – This function of the brain is used to rationalize and draw logical conclusions. Games such as crossword, puzzles, jumbles, card games, word puzzles and strategy games improve logical abilities. Play Chess, bridge, checkers or Mahjong to improve this ability.
  • Verbal ability – This function helps you speak or write correctly using appropriate words. You will need to pick words stored in long-term memory, and use them in the short-term context. Try thinking of synonyms and antonyms of any word, and form correct statements. Try to write the gist of the book you have recently read.
  • Time-space distinction – This function helps you to distinguish between past, present and future, and near and far objects. Try to remember an event from the past. Think of your goals in the future, and observe events occurring in your present. Pick any object in the room, close your eyes, and try to think of how near of far it is from you.
  • Structure and shape recognition – This function helps you determine the shape and structure of an object. To improve this type, solve jigsaw puzzles in minimum possible time.

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