One of the most difficult aspects of caring for an elderly relative can be witnessing changes and declines in their mental fitness. This doesn’t have to be inevitable, however. Regular mental, physical, and social stimulation can help elderly loved ones to stay focused and mentally sharp for longer, ensuring that they can continue to enjoy their independence and quality of life.
Exercise, a healthy diet, and activities that engage the mind can help maintain and improve mental fitness in the elderly. Activities which are fun are particularly beneficial, as they may not feel like a workout at all and can help to bring joy and meaning to your loved one’s life.
You may wish to try the following with an elderly family member to help improve their mental fitness.
Games and puzzles
Entertaining games and puzzles can provide a great mental workout, particularly if an elderly relative hasn’t played them before. Games can be solitary, such as Sudoku or a crossword, but group games, like board games and card games, have the added benefit of social interaction, which can provide further mental stimulation. This may also be the perfect opportunity for ageing family members to play with grandchildren of all ages.
A number of video games have been developed specifically for training memory, alertness, and speed of thought. The idea of video games may be off-putting for older family members, but many are easily accessible online and can be played through a web-browser if they are comfortable using a computer. To learn more about the benefits of brain training click here.
Learning to use technology
Learning to use a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone can be a great mental workout, but this can also help older relatives to feel more connected to their family.
Joining social networks can allow them to see photos and videos of loved ones. Video calls can be more engaging than phone calls, as being able to see and interact with loved ones over a video call can make it feel as though they are sitting down with distant family members.
Reading is a mentally-engaging activity that encourages visualisation and imagination. Remembering character’s names and plot points day-to-day can also help keep your loved one’s memory active too.
If your elderly relative is struggling with poor eyesight, electronic reading devices, such as Kindles or iPads, may be more suitable than traditional books. These devices can be back-lit, to help text stand out more clearly, and the font size can be increased to make reading less of a strain on the eyes.
Learning new skills
Learning a new ability is a great way to improve mental fitness, be it a new language, a musical instrument, or trying their hand at painting. Learning not only helps keep people sharp, but it can also provide a sense of purpose, and can help build confidence. Your elderly relative may have something they’ve always wanted to learn, and his may be the perfect time to encourage them. To learn more about the benefits of learning new skills click here.
Socialising is mentally stimulating, but it can also have emotional benefits. Speaking with friends helps create feelings of belonging and camaraderie, while playing with grandchildren can be good for the mental wellbeing of both grandparents and children.
You can help elderly relatives to socialise by encouraging them to join clubs or classes at local community centres, or to attend activities like bingo. To learn more about the benefits of socialising click here.
Exercise is thought to help maintain blood flow to the brain, and a number of studies have shown that people who are more physically fit perform better at cognitive tasks. To learn more about the best forms of exercise for the elderly click here.
A healthy diet
Eating healthily, and particularly avoiding foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and salt is associated with better mental alertness and lower risks of cognitive conditions such as dementia. Learn more about encouraging elderly relatives to eat a healthy diet here.
Recognising the signs of dementia
Changes in mental fitness are a common sign of ageing, and lapses in memory and forgotten words are to be expected. However, more dramatic changes in the mental abilities of elderly loved ones, and changes in personality, could be a sign they have a degenerative condition such as dementia.
Learn more about spotting the signs of dementia here.
Find out more
Learn more about elderly care with Cera or contact us on 0333 455 2502 to discuss the needs of your elderly relative.