We’ve all walked into a room and paused, forgetting why we got up from the couch. Or let an appointment, phone call, or errand slip from our mind. But when an elderly loved one starts forgetting names, places, or regular activities, harmless memory slip-ups can become a reason for concern. Fortunately, moderate memory loss is a typical sign of aging—-and not necessarily a reason to worry about Alzheimer’s or dementia. And while memory loss is to be expected, studies show there’s plenty of steps you or your loved ones can take to improve memory, boost cognitive skills, and possibly even slow the effects of dementia. These steps, which include mental exercises and brain games, help our minds improved neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is how well our mind can adapt, change, and react to new situations or information. The more we work on mental gymnastics, the healthier we can keep neuroplasticity —and the more we can continue to remember, learn, and recall. These mental exercises fall into one of two categories: skill developing and skill retaining. Studies point to learning new things as a key way to keep our mind sharp and developing at any age. At the same time, your elderly loved ones may be struggling to recall skills or abilities they once had, and retaining those skills is crucial for a quality of life. Here are a few mind (and body) steps you can take for yourself or with an elderly loved one to prevent memory loss and increase mental activity.
Pick up an instrument, or a paintbrush.
Test recall, or leave the list at home.
Use your senses, or smell the roses.
Get moving, or even dancing.