Author’s very happy 82-year old parents
Admit it, you have gone through these similar episodes in your (now) senior life: did I drink my vitamins yet ? (Yes, two minutes ago); Where are my keys? (They’re still by the keyhole when you opened the door last night!); What am I supposed to get in my bedroom? (No idea; blankly leaves the room).
And, this: someone smiles at you from across the room, approaches you, and you have a quick conversation about trivial matters, and while the other person is talking, all you can think of is, what the heck is this person’s name again?? (Later, you go through your Facebook friends list and hope to see his/her face there).
Admitting that you have an aging brain is admitting that you are old. Nothing wrong with that. Embrace your age. And all the perks that go with it. Perks being that there are more forgetful moments and that disturbs you to no end.
What to do? Tie a string on your finger to remind you to turn off the lights in the kitchen before you sleep? Be best friends with all colors of Post It Notes? What brain strengthening measures should we then employ?
While the stringed finger may not necessarily improve your cognitive functions, the sticky notes may be a good aide to remember what you need to do. That, and these other tips you might have to follow regularly. Make them a habit, and you may be on your way to “aging gracefully.”
Exercise & stretch those brains. Studies show that testing the limits of your cognitive functions contribute to a better memory. Right-handed? Try brushing your teeth with your left hand. Or scribble with your left hand. Anything that will “confuse” your routine and awaken neurons that may have been sleeping. Doing crosswords daily for the past 30 years you can practically complete them just by looking at it? Try another puzzle you have not done before: anagrams, brain teasers, or why not learn a new language (in your senior year? Why not?!)
American industrialist, and founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford once said “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning is young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
Exercise and stretch those muscles. Being physically fit makes you mentally alert, in case you have not figured that out yet. Being a couch potato does not sit well for you (get it?!). You do not have to run a marathon, although I know some fantastic golden girls who started running for fun and ended up completing marathons. But anything to make you move your muscles should be fine. Walk – with your kids, grandkids, your dog. Dance! In the shower or while cleaning. Or go out with your friends and check out that bar that plays purely 80s music & reminisce your favorite Top Gun, Saturday Night Fever, and Grease scenes.
Properly Nourish. You don’t have to switch and become a vegetarian, pescatarian, or fruitarian. Balance.Happy foods make a happy (and wise) person. So what should you be taking then? Aside from your vitamins, a daily glass of red wine is recommended; green tea is good for you too, and of course your other greens: vegetables! Fruits, fish, nuts, and chocolates are healthy too! Moderation of course is the key. (Excuse me while I open my box of extra dark chocolates)
Sleep tight. How many hours did you sleep last night? A recommended 6-7 hours is necessary as it is during sleep that our memory is enhanced, according to a Harvard Medical study. Have a conducive sleep area: wear comfortable clothes, turn off ALL gadgets (and leave it in another room); turn off all the lights. Turn off all stressful thoughts. Say a prayer of gratitude and smile as you close your eyes.
Laugh, & the world laughs with you. Have you encountered grumpy people? Those who seem to see anything and everything wrong with anyone and everyone? Stay away from them. Meanwhile, surround yourself with positive people who make you happy and inspire you. Who make you laugh and who laugh with you for whatever reason. Having a sense of humor, after all, reduces your stress hormones and lowers your blood pressure. Do fun & funny stuff with them. Volunteer. All these are therapeutic and stimulate your brain circuits.
The great actress, Ms Sophia Loren said this about being youthful:
“There is a fountain of youth. It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you have truly defeated age.”
As we tread on our delightfully senior years, these habits, religiously followed, leading us to have that healthier mind, may be our secret to avoiding those keys left in the keyhole, remembering names and birthdays, and happily hearing those compliments from friends and strangers saying “you don’t look your age.”
(The author is fifty. Compliments are most welcome)