Great Ideas to Help Our Elders Stay Sharp

August 20, 2009 at 5:49 pm Leave a comment

Our elders are no different than we are–every human from babies on up need to stay physically and intellectually stimulated. We crave it, even when we don’t realize we do. Caregivers and their loved ones are susceptible to depression and lethargy. Why? We see less people and we move less–unless we pay attention and make a special effort to stay active and sharp.

Great Ideas To Help Our Elders Stay Sharp:

Get information in. Whether you’re a book reader, enjoy audio books, watch the news, read the newspaper or magazines, or enjoy surfing the ‘net, continue to bring information into your life–for you as a caregiver, and your elder. It doesn’t have to be just the news or politics–branch out a bit and pursue some interests you’ve dabbled in before. Join a history-based chat room, or buy Archeology Today or some other magazine that interests you. Even if reading tires your elder’s eyes, then read to them and discuss it–get into a friendly debate–it’s good for the brain to get all worked up. Don’t get hung up on differing political or religious views, just enjoy the discussion and watching come to life. Those neurons will start an electrical storm in the brain and that’s a good thing.

Ask questions. Our elders have a wealth of wisdom and experience we can learn from. Ask them about the economy. Ask them what it was like during and after the depression. Ask them how they got through a difficult time in their career, or in their marriage. Our elders have so much to give–and even if you don’t agree with them–who cares? Listen and realize they’re living history.

Play games–all kinds. Get your kids and your grand kids in on the fun. Before television, people were really into cards and board games. Now there are great computer games and the Wii is great for all ages–(my mother-in-law is the best bowler in the family and she’s getting ready to celebrate her 80th birthday). Horse shoes or dominoes, checkers or charades–it doesn’t matter what game–it matters that you’re together. One of my favorite pictures is of my daughter (she’s about 9), my husband and my mother playing a kid’s game called “Pretty, Pretty Princess.” All of them have on crowns, rings, and beads–and it’s such a sweet picture–one I’ll always treasure.

Stay active. Activity isn’t necessarily exercise. Dance or walk around the house. Dancing combines music with movement, and that’s a winning combination that will lift your spirits and raise your heart rate. Walk to the mailbox together. Go shopping just for a stroll (pick a smaller store if walking long distances is a problem). Throw the ball to each other in the house. Do a yoga DVD together. Don’t feel like it? The feeling comes after you start…not before. Do it anyway. It’s good for you. You need it. Your elder needs it. Don’t take “no” for an answer from either of you.

Shake up the routine.Our brains get so accustomed to the same ole’-same ole’ that it runs on automatic pilot. Face it, most of us in these modern times are just plain bored with our predictable lives. While your elder needs structure (for meds, sleeping, etc.). you can still vary the day in small ways. Take a different way home from your errands. Try a different grocery store or restaurant. Go for a drive–remember when people used to just get in their cars and take a drive on Sunday afternoons? Why not find the prettiest-nature route near you and go for a 20-30 mile ride? Talk, look out the windows and just relax.

Socializing is good for your brain. Invite someone over who hasn’t been to your house in a long time, or perhaps never before. Serve store-bought cookies and store-made lemonade–no one will care. Just having someone new to talk with lifts your spirits. I remember how much perkier and together my mom acted when one of my daughters brought home a new boyfriend. She had a new “victim” to tell all her stories to–and we all joined in with our favorite family tales. (We’re like show-and-tell). Even though my mom had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, she’d smile and laugh when a “young gentleman” took the time to talk with her for a few minutes.

See? It’s not so difficult to stay sharp–and you need it just as much as your mom or dad (or grandparents) do. Staying sharp is just about having a great life.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , , , , .

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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