When we think of values that help us age well we might think of positivity or frugality, but when it comes to keeping up healthy minds, curiosity may be just what the doctor ordered. Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
From the moment we are born our minds and bodies are made to learn and we are naturally curious. We are full of questions and every answer begs the question, “why?” The longer we live the easier it is to lose our sense of curiosity about how the world works. To try new things, we must be willing to take the position of the beginner, to ask questions and fail and ask better questions. Perhaps the fountain of youth is found in our curiosity that drives us to keep learning. Here are a few tips to help seniors continue to engage their minds and give their curiosity a workout:
iTunes U | Can’t get to a classroom? Let the classroom come to you. This online app gives you access to a wide variety of courses and lectures from the leading universities and colleges around the world for free. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/itunes-u/id490217893?mt=8
edX | Take classes online for free from some of the world’s best universities. Go at your own pace and interact with classmates from around the world online. https://www.edx.org/
Genealogy of Inspiration | Enjoy a book you are reading? Research what writers inspired the author. Follow the trail of inspiration and read authors that inspired other authors you like. Consider gathering an experimental book club to do the activity together.
Puzzles | Solving puzzles like sudoku, crosswords, or playing strategy games like chess can help the mind hold multiple ideas at once, and keep neural pathways active. For online games that train your brain you can also try something like Lumosity: http://www.lumosity.com/
Write in a Journal | The act of paying attention to the day and formulating your thoughts on the page can be a great way to activate your imagination and language centers in the brain on a daily basis.
Learn a New Language | While this can be more difficult as we age, learning a new language is a wonderful way to activate different parts of the brain. How we see the world is shaped so much by the language that we use. How would thinking in Italian change the way you see the world?
Play a Musical Instrument | Whether playing for memory or reading music, playing an instrument can really exercise motor skills, concentration, and positively affect mood. There is always more music to learn and playing an instrument can provide a regular outlet for learning something new.
Foodie | We all have to eat and cooking can provide a great excuse to learn something new. Read through cook books or take a class on preparing a new cuisine. When preparing food the body and mind must coordinate constantly, which is a great workout for that dynamic team.
Naturalist | Enjoy the outdoors? Take the time to research and learn about something that interests you outside. Maybe it is identifying bird calls, learning the names of plants to spot on your walks, reading the history of a favorite national park, or getting engaged in a local environmental issue.
Historian | Maybe you would like to dive into your ancestry and learn more about your family or country of origin. Do you know much about the town that you grew up in? Writing down the stories and further researching the places and people we come from can be a rich activity for the mind and the heart.
These ideas are all about letting your curiosity guide you to new things to enjoy. Learning for learning’s sake is just fine, but enjoying the journey is even better. When our brains light up with endorphins as we explore a new topic in the world, we create a sweet spot for healthy minds. With Alzheimer’s and other dementias effecting millions of people around the globe it is important to not take a healthy mind for granted. What are you curious about?
As adult children, it can be difficult to know how to find balance between engaging in your own life and helping an aging parent stay engaged in theirs. When we think of in-home care, the logistics of medications and mobility comes to mind, but engaging in activities, getting outside, going to events, and having companionship are all part of creating a high quality of life for aging adults. Home Care services shouldn’t be a checklist of tasks. At Sound Options our team of professionals is able to accompany aging adults to help them take pleasure in the day, feel safe, and get the quality care they need. For more information visit http://www.soundoptions.com/in-home-care or give us a call at 800.628.7649.
Published on July 7, 2014.