Many people are concerned about losing their memory and mental capacity as they grow older. By the time we reach middle age, most of us have experienced the sensation of losing track of information and don’t feel we possess quite the same capacity to remember finer details that we once had. The concern is real. The aging process which actually starts well before old or even middle age does degrade cognition levels, especially at the speed which new information is processed.
This shouldn’t be a reason to panic, however. Paul Laurienti, a brain researcher at Wake Forest University School of medicine, says that new research supports the plasticity of the aging brain. “We used to think that with age, brain cells just shriveled up and died,” but the latest studies show that this is not the case. Even older neurons are capable of developing new connections when they are used daily. Activity stimulates the neurons and slows the process of degeneration.
Mental Activity is Vital for Seniors
On the one hand this is comforting news; on the other it’s a call to action. If activity slows down the aging process, then lack of stimulation will make it move much faster. Conscious mental exercise can benefit people at any age, but it becomes even more vital for seniors. This should be a concern for anyone with a loved one growing older, especially with seniors who still live independently.
After retirement, daily stimulation through a job or social activity tends to diminish. Some couples interact with their partner, but widows and single people who live alone may only receive family visits a few times a month. This isolation hastens brain degeneration, contributes to depression, and can even increase instances of substance abuse. Relatives need to be aware that social interaction can be almost as important as medical care. Many organizations now have senior home care programs to fill this need.
Games Can Provide Stimulation for Seniors
Activities don’t necessarily need to seem like an exercise or a formal session. A simple game with one or more individuals can provide laughter and help to build friendship. Games can also stimulate the mind and challenge memory function. Many older people grew up playing family games before the age of computer technology and often find board or card games more familiar than a computer interface. Some seniors may be thrilled to see their old favorites, while others might enjoy the challenge of something learning something new. Here are a few suggestions to get started with:
- Bingo – don’t underestimate the power of this favorite among seniors. Bingo can be a great game to play at home, or better yet find a local bingo night that can turn into a weekly event. It requires concentration, memory, and listening skills. It’s not too challenging for someone who’s beginning to experience signs of dementia, but the difficulty level can be increased by adding cards.
- Rum – many seniors are very familiar with Rum. It’s fun for any number of people and keeps seniors mentally active. It’s possible to get cards with larger numbers for those with vision difficulties.
- Phase 10 – Phase 10 can be a good way to expand on rum. Each phase requires a different skill, so it can keep the mind more alert and out of habitual thinking patterns. Since seniors didn’t grow up with Phase 10, this game can help them learn new skills in a familiar context.
- Uno– Uno is fun for everyone. The cards are easy to read. It’s simple, but unpredictable.
- Sorry – this mostly chance based game will keep everyone laughing. Each player tries to be the first to get all their pieces home, but the right number can give one the chance to sabotage someone else (and tell they you’re sorry!) It’s a good game for generating a little healthy competition.
- Backgammon – this is a good two person game. Older generations are generally more familiar with it. If you’ve never played it before, asking an elderly relative to teach you can give them a boost of confidence and generate a positive interaction.
- Scrabble – this is the perfect game for keeping the wits sharp at any age. Players have to combine their letters to form words, at the same time trying to hit double and triple score spots on the board for more points. Using a timer can keep the turns from becoming too long. It might be a bit challenging for someone who is experiencing dementia, but it’s great for seniors with active minds who love words.
- Monopoly – Monopoly is most fun for a group of people. It can be too long and complicated for some situations, but, if you’re loved one is still mentally active and enjoys bargaining strategies, this could be the perfect choice
- Trivial Pursuit – long term memory can sometimes last longer than short term, so you might be surprised at some of the Trivial Pursuit questions seniors can answer. There are a number of different trivia games that could be applicable like Reminiscing, which focuses on events in the past, and Senior Sez Trivia, which is was written especially for seniors. One version lets the player choose between two possible answers for a game that is a little less challenging.
- Senior Moments – this is a relatively new game aimed at specifically increasing memory. Players have to memorize short lists, but chance also plays a big part. It’s fun for seniors and young people alike and helps everyone take their forgetful moments less seriously.
Home Care Can Help
As more seniors are making the decision to live alone as long as possible, professional help with home care is becoming more common. Even with the best intentions, many people simply don’t have as much time to spend with aging loved ones as they would like. Calling a senior home care agency can help with this situation.
Fairfax home care agencies provide different levels of care for senior individuals who live independently or semi-independently. The program is affordable and may often be covered by insurance. Medical home care is better known, but some people may not be aware that home visits can also include much needed mental stimulation and social interaction. A home care visit could be as simple as a one-on-one game or it could involved accompaniment on an outside activity, meal preparation or aid with shopping. Agents are trained in a balanced approach which includes both mental and physical activity, as well as healthy eating habits and social interaction.
Contact Caring Hands Matter to Learn More
So don’t give up on getting the proper care and mental activity for your loved one just because you are short on time yourself. Find fun and fulfilling activities for the times when you are available, and for the times when you’re not, professional home care agents can help. To learn more about this topic or our home care services in Fairfax, VA services, please call or contact Caring Hands Matter online today.