Friday, June 29, 2007

For Seniors: the Power of Reading and Other Brain Exercises

Of course exercise is valuable for seniors, but it's not just what you do at the gym or health club. From the Chicago Sun-Times, June 28, 2007: "Mental exercises such as reading newspapers, going to plays and playing checkers can help ward off Alzheimer's disease, a study has found--and it's never too late to start." In his article "Power of the Press," health reporter Jim Ritter reinforces my belief that keeping busy and active is the key to healthy aging.

Rush University Medical Center researchers, in a study of more than 700 elderly Chicago residents, average age 80, noted that over five years, 90 developed Alzheimer's. The ten percent of subjects who engaged in stimulating mental activities most frequently were 2.6 times less likely to develop the disease than those in the ten percent who were least active mentally. "Mental activity makes neural systems more efficient and better able to adapt to age-related brain damage."

Several companies have started to sell various games and exercises to keep brains healthy. According to researcher Robert Wilson, there's no proof that these games offer anti-Alzheimer's protection. But Wilson still advises, "Find something that's mentally stimulating that you enjoy doing."

Some suggestions:

Read newspapers, magazines, books.
Visit the library.
Write letters.
Play games such as checkers or chess.
Visit museums.
Attend concerts, plays, and musicals.

Of course I would add writing to the list. Write your life story. Become a blogger. Pass along your experiences and your memories. Have fun, and improve your mental health as you do so!

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne


baabaanne said...

I have one friend who prefers written letters instead of email. I force myself to write to her because email is so much easier.

seniorwriter said...

Yes, I prefer email too. For mental exercise, writing letters might be better (and might leave a record for posterity), but I guess email's time has come. I hope we seniors don't succumb to the use of teenage Internet shorthand and jargon! (LOL) "Serious" blogging has communication possibilities, but I hope books don't disappear. It's hard to curl up with a computer.