by Carol Chandler-Wood
This month I will address an issue for parents as we grow older and what we can do to learn and stay mentally sharp, help prevent memory loss, and increase our mental fitness. As we grow older, there are mental signs that remind us of this; such as forgetting where we put something or a declining ability to multitask. We may believe that losing our memory and mental sharpness is something we have no control over. Well, there is good news! There are steps we can take to improve our mental capacities and memory skills, and a few suggestions follow.
Return to the classroom. You are never too old to learn! In fact, studies have shown that it is beneficial for adults as we age to learn something new. This opens up channels in our brains that have been left to wither and atrophy. You may feel that life is too busy to go back to school or are concerned that you may not be able to learn and retain information anymore. I returned to college for a Master’s degree in June 2006 and am excited to report to you that the ‘ole brain still works and the memory cells are still kicking! There are many reputable colleges offering on-line degrees, which is what I am doing. An on-line degree allows you to continue to parent your children, work in your career, and take college classes at the same time. As a result of yours and my life experiences and better understanding about the world, people, places, and events than when we were young, we can be better students now than before! If you have been thinking about going to college for the first time or for another degree, I would encourage you to take action and do so! You will be so glad you did!
If you are unable to budget for or do not desire a college degree, there are other ways to expand your knowledge base and open up those untapped brain channels. Select a topic you would like to learn more about and access the world-wide web and begin your research. With the internet, information is literally a key stroke away. Of course, be sure the sources you select to learn from are warranted, reputable, and reliable because there is some information on the internet that is not accurate and based on people’s opinions.
To increase your mental fitness and prevent memory loss, you may find a unique program called Neurobics helpful. In a book by Lawrence C. Katz, PhD & Manning Rubin (1999) entitled, “Keep Your Brain Alive”, Neurobics is said to include a simple exercise program based on the brain’s ability to produce natural growth factors called neurotrophins that help fight off the effects of mental aging. Neurobic exercises use your five physical senses and your emotional sense in unexpected ways and encourage you to shake up your everyday routines. Example neurobic exercises are to close your eyes and use your other senses of touch, smell and spatial memory to unlock your door, enter your home at the end of the day and find your way to the coat closet and answering machine. Use your non-dominant hand to write which will activate the other side of your brain. Eat a meal with your family in silence using only visual clues. Take a completely new route to work. What happens in your brain while you’re doing these types of exercises is that different, underused nerve pathways and connections get activated. To learn about Neurobics, go to www.neurobics.com.
Another book which addresses memory skills and mental fitness is by Corrine L. Gediman & Francis M. Crinella, PhD. (2006) entitled, “Brainfit – 10 Minutes a Day for a Sharper Mind and Memory”. Using advanced brain imaging technology, neuroscientists are learning about the brain’s amazing capacity for rejuvenation. BrainFit is a circuit-training program designed to reclaim your brain. In 10 to 15 minutes a day individuals who are beginning to feel the effects of memory loss will see immediate reversal of the mental aging process. There are nine distinct, fast and fun workout stations, and each focus on a different aspect of brain fitness. Addressed in this program are remembering who, what, how many, when, where, and challenges for the left and right brain. To learn about Brainfit, go to www.brainfit.net.
By becoming a learner again as you grow older, you will enhance your life by improving mental sharpness, becoming more confident, and causing yourself to look forward to each day full of new things to learn. And, perhaps your children will be encouraged to learn and become better students as a result of you setting an example of being an enthusiastic learner yourself! Katz, L. C. (1999). Keep Your Brain Alive. New York: Workman Publishing Company.
Gediman, C. L. & Crinella, F. M. (2006). Brainfit-10 Minutes a Day for a Sharper Mind and Memory. New York: Barnes & Noble Publishing, Inc.