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How can we improve our memory? Most experts believe memory exercises for seniors should typically involve real-world activities, but there are also some clinically proven brain training programs shown to effectively improve brain function and memory. It’s believed that the key to a sharper mind primarily boils down to four things: keeping your mind active by learning something new, switching up your routine, taking care of your body through a healthy diet and exercise, and if you play brain games, selecting those that are clinically proven to work. Try a combination of these brain exercises and activities to help keep your mind sharp.
Brain training software is very popular these days, but many have yet to show significant neurological benefits for older adults. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found little evidence that playing brain games translated into improvements in cognitive function or decision making. However, not all brain games are created equal. The following programs have the research to back up their claims.
BrainHQ is an online brain-training system built by Posit Science that features attention, memory, brain speed, intelligence, navigation, and people skills exercises. Results from the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health found that the BrainHQ brain training platform was the only program in the study to significantly reduce the risk of dementia among older adults over a 10-year period. What makes BrainHQ different is that while other brain training programs focus on strategy-based memory and reasoning training, Brain HQ’s exercises are designed to gradually speed up visual and auditory processing in order to specifically target improvements in the brain’s processing speed and improve cognitive function.
CogniFit’s personalized brain training program improves processing speed through different brain exercises and games to train memory, concentration, and other cognitive skills. After an initial cognitive screening, the program helps to identify and recognize determined brain disorders and monitor the patient's intervention and rehabilitation. All of the tests and tasks from CogniFit are validated by independent studies, showing enhancements in cognitive performance in healthy older adults.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a memory game app called “Game Show” that asks players to match geometric patterns with different locations to earn gold coins. A study published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology found that patients in the very earliest stages of dementia who played “Game Show” showed improved episodic memory by around 40% (memories of locations and events).
Challenge yourself to learn something new.
Ward off dementia by learning a new skill outside of your comfort zone. It will boost your brain power and slow cognitive aging by strengthening the connections between parts of your brain. There is always something new to learn! Some Universities offer free or discounted tuition to senior citizens, opening you up to a variety of subjects. Look into classes at a YMCA/YWCA, recreational center, or a local program where you can learn how to quilt, take digital photographs, use a computer software program, or play a musical instrument. You can also learn on your own through books or online tutorials.
Take the road less traveled.
Any sort of varied travel is great for the brain. This can mean a vacation to a new city, driving down different roads when running errands, walking the dog on a new route, or going up and down different aisles each time you do your grocery shopping. The idea is to avoid repetitiveness and to change up everyday routes once they become too familiar while taking in the sights and sounds of everything around you.
Follow a healthy diet and exercise program.
Did you know a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing dementia? Take care of your brain by eating healthy, avoiding too much salt and sugar, and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. The MIND diet ― a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet ― may slow cognitive decline. Get your body moving with a regular fitness routine. Just 45 minutes of exercise three days a week can actually increase brain volume. Go for a walk outside or do some easy indoor exercises to make a positive impact on your body and mind. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C), you may be eligible to join SilverSneakers, a free fitness membership for qualified adults 65 years of age and older.
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Last Revised 11/15/2017