As we get older, keeping the mind active and healthy is as important as maintaining physical fitness and strength. Mental health is also an essential part of being able to live independently. Participating in activities and games, both in and outside of the home, keeps the mind healthy. Social interaction also reduces isolation and loneliness, along with the life-shortening effects associated with that.
Exercising the mind as well as the body can be fun and easy to do and that might include playing games and taking part in pastimes that can be enjoyed by everyone. These types of activities can assist, not only with exercising the brain but also with hand-eye coordination and balance. They can also bring groups of friends, or the whole family, together to take part.
Where can you find these activities to keep the mind healthy?
Keeping the brain fit and healthy can be done alone, with friends and family or through organisations such as Age Uk, Schools, Hospitals and local religious establishments.
There are lots of things that keep the brain healthy, that we can do from the comfort of our own living rooms:
- Games: There are plenty of games which can provide a challenge for the brain, including jigsaws, trivia quizzes, chess, video games, and playing cards. Games are perfect to practice strategic thinking, and many can be played both on your own or with others.
- Art and crafts: From sewing and knitting to colouring, painting, and drawing. Crafts provide the opportunity to express your artistic side while maintaining coordination skills
- Books: Whether you enjoy novels or non-fiction, books can challenge and entertain. Puzzle books such as word searches, logic puzzles, and crosswords can provide the brain with a good workout. And don’t forget there are talking books if eyesight has become a problem.
- Video Games: Entertainment can also come from all kinds of technology. WII fit, play stations, Nintendo, and handheld devices are all options. Grandchildren are always helpful to provide assistance on how to use them!
- Online games: Online games and chats rooms can also avoid isolation when housebound, but care must be taken to ensure your privacy and you shouldn’t share any personal information. Companies with products like Peak specialise in brain training and on the cutting edge of the field.
With Friends and Family:
There is no replacement for friends and family, the closest people are the best people, and there is a huge variety of things you, the family or groups of old friends can do together:
- Days out: Getting out of the house, if possible to see local attractions, even if they have been seen a hundred times before is a great way to stay engaged
- Holidays: Now this can be tricky, however, holidays do provide a great way for everyone to bond and creates a strong social reason to remain healthy and engaged.
Charities and other organisations:
Age UK and similar organisations, like Age Concern and the Salvation Army, have been helping the older generation and the vulnerable for over a hundred years. As the country’s largest charity, Age UK is dedicated to helping everyone in later life, they support more than 7 million people every year with a wide range of issues. Their vision is that everyone should love later life.
Age UK also works with independent organisations that can offer and assist with a range of information, from legal matters, care, travel, and housing. The Friends of Age UK are volunteer-led local organisations who offer support within the local community. Their web site pages provide valuable information on the help they can offer, which includes:
- Café / restaurant visits
- Social activities
- Exercise/physical activity
- IT training
- Dementia support
- Foot care
- Products for later life
You’ll also find details of how you can support them through their charity shops and by purchasing lottery/raffle tickets. Finding trusted tradespeople can always be challenging, and so the local organisations also provide recommendations should work need to be carried out in an elderly person’s home. Go to www.ageuk.org.uk to find out more about activities in your local area.
Other organisations include:
Day centres: Day centres provide entertainment and a hot meal at lunchtime, and they can also arrange day trips. Usually, there will be a fee to pay, but if the elderly person is in receipt of some benefits, it may be reduced depending on councils and funding. There’s always plenty of advice on hand, good company and the opportunity for a chat. You can find your local day centres for the elderly by contacting your local library or council.
Leisure centres: These are great options for keeping fit. You’ll usually find classes designed for various age groups and disabilities and these might include swimming, chair keep fit, table tennis and lots more.
Education centres: There are plenty of courses during the day and evenings at local education centres. Meeting people who have the same hobbies and interests is a perfect way of socialising and building new friendships.
Singing: Whether on your own or with a choir, there are substantial health benefits to singing; it can provide a physical work out for your lungs and help with memory too.
Supplies and equipment for our suggestions can be purchased in most local craft shops, online and in many supermarkets. The web sites below also provide lots more ideas.