As we age, our cognitive skills may decline. Just as physical exercise helps to keep your body strong and flexible, activities that make the brain work are an important way to maintain mental agility.
If your loved one has problems with memory, be sure to find activities he or she can manage. Here are some ways to build mental muscle:
Puzzles. Word games like jumbles and cryptograms, crosswords, and Sudoku can challenge the mind, and so can jigsaw puzzles.
Games. Board games, including backgammon, chess, and checkers require strategy. Parlor games such as Charades require the mind to make connections, which helps with memory.
Game shows. Trivia and matching games are a fun way to test memory. And it can be reassuring to see that contestants don’t always get the answers!
Conversation. Do your parents have trouble telling you about their day? Asking about recent things requires short-term memory, which is often the first to fade. Instead, look through old photo albums or scrapbooks. Ask for stories about the people or objects.
Remember that physical and artistic activities are also important to keeping the mind sharp. Drawing, using clay, even listening to music provide intellectual stimulation. Activities like gardening and walking the dog help build blood vessels that bring oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body.