staying sharp

Staying Sharp as a Senior: 9 Fun and Stimulating Suggestions

The human brain contains billions of neurons that communicate through 100 trillion neural connections. This allows you to store, process, and integrate information to experience life and create memories.

As with the body, the brain needs exercise to stay in shape, especially as we age and the connections break down. Put staying sharp on your priority list!

Read on to find out how!

1. Arts and Crafts

Find ways to express your creativity regularly, using any medium you can find:

  • Paint on canvas, driftwood, or seashells
  • Draw
  • Color
  • Knit
  • Make bead or thread jewelry
  • Sculpt 
  • Make dolls
  • Fold paper (origami)
  • Button art
  • Craft bird feeders
  • Design fashion

Creating art stimulates the ventral striatum of the brain. This structure aids in decision making and triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin.

This means that arts and crafts can help you stay sharp for decision making, which is a crucial element of independent living that older adults want to hang on to as long as possible. The chemical release also helps you keep a more positive outlook on life, which will keep your brain strong against depression that can sneak up later in life.

Look at the calendar for your senior living community to see what they offer that catches your interest!

2. Stay Active

Keeping your body active helps maintain a sharp mind. Exercise improves circulation, which means the brain receives a fresh supply of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood, promoting healthy cells and new neural connections.

If you can, take walks regularly and practice gentle yoga. You might also try fun coordination activities like beach ball volleying, bean bag tosses, and badminton.

Sometimes aging limits your activities. But, find creative ways to still stay active every day. This might mean simply lifting your limbs while laying to touch a target if you cannot get out of bed. From a wheelchair, you can improvise activities, like creating wheelchair races with friends.

3. Enroll in a College Course

Even if you cannot pursue a dream career now, it is never too late to learn more. Many colleges allow senior citizens to audit courses for free. If you can not make it on campus several days each week, then take courses that interest you online.

EdX offers a number of free courses from prestigious colleges like Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, and more. Engaging in class discussions and completing coursework as you learn new information maintains a stimulated mind to protect you from dementia or other forms of age-related impairments.

Choosing courses you enjoy will make this feel like play. But, completing assignments will also give you a satisfactory feeling of accomplishment.

4. Puzzles

Piecing together puzzles exercises both hemispheres of the brain’s cortex. This activity exercises fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination while strengthening cognitive skills like memory, concentration, and recognition.

To avoid frustration and burning out, start with kids puzzles. As you complete one, level up to more pieces and enjoy the sense of accomplishment as you complete complex pictures.

5. Word Games

Losing the ability to effectively communicate will lead to frustration, impaired relationships, and heartache. Word games provide a fun way to sharpen language, recall, and memory skills so that you can preserve social relationships.

On your own, strengthen these skills through crossword puzzles and word searches. With others, challenge yourself by playing games like Scrabble, Scattergories, Boggle, and 20 Questions.

6. Cook 

Cooking offers an exciting way to sharpen multiple aspects of cognition. When you cook, you follow directions, measure, coordinate, and improvise.

This will provide you with a sense of accomplishment and give you the opportunity to stimulate your brain through nutrition as well. Add ingredients to your dishes that provide nootropic properties, like lion’s mane mushrooms, dark chocolate, turmeric, and coffee beans.

Cooking also promotes healthy relationships, which remain important as we age. At a time where you may feel like you rely too heavily on the people you love, you can give back to them through this brain-boosting activity.

7. Scrapbook

Old pictures help to stimulate the memory center of the brain. Scrapbooking adds extra elements to this with creative license and language exercises.

To get the most out of your scrapbooking activity, try to develop coherent stories that strengthen recall, organizational, and language skills. Write sentences with the pictures and add it scraps of cloth, buttons, or other materials that fit.

Once you finish your scrapbook, share it with people. Show friends and family to answer questions and further reminisce, creating the ultimate brain exercise that enhances your social connections.

8. Music

Music serves as a beautiful tool for a sharp mind. Musical soundwaves encourage new neural connections and stimulate all different portions of the brain.

Playing an instrument strengthens fine motor skills and long-term memory processing. While giving the brain a full-fledged workout, music also improves mood and heals the soul.

While listening to songs or playing an instrument, dance. You will get the additional benefits provided by exercise to keep your mind healthy.

9. Video Games

Video games tend to get a bad rap. People complain that they turn kids’ brains to mush and stop them from thinking.

On the contrary, video games actually sharpen cognitive skills. Research reveals that playing video games for at least a half-hour each day improves the quality of life.

The fun and exciting challenges presented within the games stimulate memory and problem-solving skills to enhance cognition. The Nintendo Wii system also adds in the elements of movement and coordination that allow you the opportunity to play sports from the safety of your living room.

Staying Sharp Is Easy

Staying sharp will help you increase the shelf life on your mind. This allows you to keep your independence and cherish your fondest memories for longer. These activities protect healthy minds from disease and slow down the progression of dementia.

We want to help you enjoy your golden years. Contact us to learn about all of your options for senior living arrangements in North Tuscon and Marana, AZ.