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Active Mind -  Staying sharp is the name of the game
01 Jan 2016

Staying sharp is the name of the game, by The Selwyn Foundation

We all know that with age often comes forgetfulness and other instances of memory loss.
So why does it happen and what can we do about it?

First of all, it’s important to note that although people often worry that the first sign of forgetfulness is an omen of a more serious mental decline, there are a range of possible causes that aren’t nearly so scary and in many cases are entirely manageable.

Slower processing is a natural part of ageing. It’s not so much forgetting where you put your car keys, it’s forgetting what car keys are for or thinking you need to put them in the freezer that’s the concern. According to Dr Chris Perkins, dementia expert, 83% of elderly people forget names and about 60% lose their keys.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to see a doctor if you’re concerned – particularly if you have significant changes in lifelong behaviour. But in the meantime, there’s a lot you can do to keep yourself sharp.

A healthy body makes a big difference. A little exercise helps improve the circulation of oxygen to the brain, improving reasoning and reaction times. Eating well keeps your neurons firing, your arteries open and your blood pumping a steady supply of energy and helpful vitamins. But just as physical fitness requires exercise, so does mental fitness. So what constitutes mental exercise?

You can start with little things like crosswords and thinking games – scrabble and chess, for instance. But don’t stop at doing crosswords and playing games. Take up new hobbies that are complex and challenging – learning a language or musical instrument, model-making, crochet or painting and drawing can all significantly help to maintain mental agility. Or why not visit your local community Selwyn Centre, where older people gather and enjoy games, social activities and gentle exercise. And for residents of Selwyn retirement villages, they offer plenty of weekly activities too.

The good news is that it’s never too late. Our brains are surprisingly flexible and can rewire themselves as required but the sooner you start, the better.

“Older minds are like older horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order,” John Adams, ex US President.

© The Selwyn Foundation 2016.