You’ve wandered into the kitchen and can’t recall what you wanted or how you got there. You’re always losing your keys and don’t quite know what day it is. If this sounds like you, be reassured that at least you’re not alone. Many of us find our memories failing us, and this becomes a more regular occurrence as we age.
But rather than memory loss becoming an accepted part of old age, there are ways you can be proactive in sharpening your mind. Read on for five suggestions on how you can keep those neural pathways firing.
1. Become a life-long learner
It’s never too late to pick up a new skill, or continue honing one you already have. There are many benefits to learning as an older adult. Your life experience will give you lots of pre-existing knowledge to build on, as depth of learning increases over time. By stimulating your brain, you’ll be helping to maintain individual brain cells and keep them communicating with each other. You’ll gain in confidence and have goals to aim for. If your learning takes place in a social setting such as a classroom (like Melbourne’s University of the Third Age), you’ll become connected to a wider community and get the opportunity to make new friends. If you decide to instead utilise one of the many free online courses (such as through Open2Study), you’ll inadvertently be improving your tech skills as well.
There are government subsidy packages available that can help cover devices such as iPads including showing you how to set them up with the express purpose of staying in touch and keeping active! The packages can also help provide transport to get out to your favourite short courses. Go here to see if you’re eligible.
Having a circle of friends is good for both your heart and your head. Just as formal learning stimulates your brain, so too does conversation (whether it be an intense political debate or just chatting about the weather). You can join a community club to find friends with similar interests, or go online—finding people on the same page as you will result in some seriously satisfying banter.
Companion care is also a great way to meet new people and boost social interaction. Besides assisting with daily activities, companion carers also regularly pop in for a chat, help organise appointments but more importantly help provide access to social outings and activities- all tailored to what you want!
3. Get your hands dirty
Get outside and have a dig around the garden. While you toil away in the soil, your brain is able to focus on the task at hand without the distraction of phones or TV screens. This mindfulness can be soothing to the brain, as it helps release stress. At the same time, you’ll be able to take in all of the natural stimuli a garden has to offer. You may even get some vegies from it as well!
If you are finding it a bit hard to get outside these days or the upkeep of the garden is starting to overwhelm, having someone to help out isn’t beyond your resources like you might think. The government makes a subsidy available to people who may need some assistance at home.
Known as a Home Care Package, the amount you could receive is based on an assessment of your personal care needs and financial situation. You can use the funding to help cover the cost of home services such as gardening. Get someone in and get outside to have a chat and a cuppa with them in your beloved garden!
And if you don’t have your own plot, check for nearby community gardens you can visit with a companion carer. Home Care packages can also cover transport, equipment (such as walking frames) and a person to help to get you out and about enjoying your favourite gardens.
4. Do the walk of life
Another form of exercise that may be doable is going for a regular walk. It doesn’t have to be a long or intensive walk; a gentle stroll around the block will do. In fact, going slower will help you remain mindful, as you’ll be able to better observe what’s around you. What flowers can you see? What noises can you hear? What does the sky look like? Taking in your surroundings will spark your senses and have you feeling like you’ve been on an adventure. You’ll be surprised as to what you notice when you really pay attention.
And again if you’re finding it a bit harder to get out these days (or you live on a huge hill!), many companion care providers have a long list of support staff itching to get out for a stroll and a chat with you. They are fully trained and experienced in helping someone access the community be it a simple stroll with support to travelling with a wheel chair to a flatter park to watch the birds. They also are there to help you get down to catch up on the latest goss at your favourite coffee shop. Why not make the most of the Home Care Packages and get access to a physio or OT to make those walks even more comfortable.
5. Priortise play-time
It’s probably been a long time since you’ve scheduled in play-time, but why should kids have all the fun? Some libraries have board games you can borrow, and games of chess set up for you to play. Whether you want to challenge a family member or friend to a board game, trivia round or game of cards, or spend time tackling a jigsaw puzzle or crossword on your own, all of these fun activities will keep you on your toes.