Turn Off that TV and Exercise that Brain

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My mama often complains that my daddy spends too much time watching television. He loves sports and those crazy judge shows along with James Garner in Rockford Files. He tries to ignore her but in the end, she does make a difference.

Too much time watching the “boob tube” will indeed turn your brain to mush. I learned that from my gerontology professors and I’ve seen it affect my neighbor, a former physics professor. He quickly went downhill after retiring and then sitting long hours watching TV. There are lots of ways to challenge your brain and nearly all the endeavors are a lot more entertaining than the television.

Since mama’s been on daddy’s case I bought a lot of crossword puzzles. It’s a good way to exercise the brain and it gives my parents something to talk about. He also reads his Bible daily and the morning newspaper. I write for my small town paper that comes once a week and both my parents read it from cover to cover. Reading is very good for the brain.

Reading and puzzles are indeed good for your brain. My mama actually prefers picture puzzles. She’ll go upstairs and sit in her sunny bedroom window where she has a table just for her picture puzzles. She puts on her radio and sips on a cup of coffee while she works.

Taking Up the Needles Again

A few years back I wrote a piece for Provider magazine about Dr. Arnold Bresky’s work with the elderly, many of which had some level of dementia. He found those older folks who once loved to knit or crochet could easily pick it up again, even those with advanced dementia.

“Research has shown that working with numbers and patterns can improve cognition,” says Bresky. “The numbers are on the left side of your brain, the patterns are on the right side. What I’m doing is connecting the two sides. It was like my patients were slowly waking up and recognizing where they were. They began smiling more often and laughing. That’s powerful medicine.”

This group called themselves “Hands of Kindness” and they knit blankets and hats that are given to the needy, thus helping both the needy and the elderly. Everyone needs to feel needed and have purpose in their lives.

My granny lived well into her 80s and was always sharp as a tack. She quilted, crocheted and even tatted (made lace). She loved to read and sew. Even though she lived alone for decades, she remained sharp of mind.

Exercising by Socializing

Isolation can become a problem for the older generation. Encourage your older loved one to volunteer with a local organization. They can teach adults to read or read to children who struggle with reading at libraries. They can help out at the local food bank or meals on wheels. They can be a friendly caller for those who are shut-ins. Almost anyone can find a good fit in the volunteer world. Interacting with others stimulates the brain. Each person we talk to challenges our brains to connect and understand where that person is coming from and what their words are really saying. It’s good for us to socialize. It’s also very good for our brains.

Are you a former teacher? Or perhaps your loved one used to teach? I am challenged every time I walk into a classroom of students. I substitute teach so I choose which assignments to take. It’s perfect for older people and many times they can choose to work just half days.

And don’t forget to move!

Exercising our bodies also exercises our brains. Those who take a walk each day or work out are also stimulating their brains.

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