During the holiday season, staying active and engaged in activities can have a positive effect on you mentally and physically. There are other things to do in addition to the everyday activities of bingo, chess, and other tabletop games. By choosing some new options, seniors can be active and engaged while feeling happier during the holiday season.
In a study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, writing, specifically handwriting, stimulates the part of the brain responsible for thinking, language, and memory. This is not the same experience you would have if you used a keyboard. Handwriting has the most positive effect when you write about something you are feeling or have experienced, and writing your ideas has shown to have some long term effects on personal wellbeing—sharing your thoughts can lead to feeling better both mentally and physically.
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Music is another way to keep feeling and acting young. Studies show that seniors who play an instrument for just an hour or two a week can experience improvements in memory. Playing music also improves hand movement and coordination. For those with dementia, music can help improve mood and memory over time.
While seniors may not read as much as they used to, the benefits of reading make it worth the time. In an interesting study done by JAMA Psychiatry, those who read were found to have a lower incidence of dementia. The researchers found that seniors who read experienced a 30% lower rate of memory decline into old age. Reading materials that may work well for seniors are those that are humorous, have pictures, and, if needed, large text. Keeping the mind active through reading has been shown to have a stronger impact than other cognitive activities.
Playing video games and doing crossword puzzles are other ways seniors can have fun during the holidays. Approximately 40% of those over the age of 50 play video games on a regular basis, and a study from the Archives of Neurology show that playing strategy-based games improves memory over time. Research has also shown that playing games can slow down the onset of dementia. In yet another study, playing video games was found to be as effective at treating depression in seniors as leading antidepressants. Seniors who play video games can also play online with others, which allows them to connect with others daily.
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Seniors who socialize are generally healthier than those who are isolated, according to the Journal of Experimental Gerontology. While the cold weather and the holiday season rush can limit interactions with others, keeping in contact with others by volunteering or attending community events can be beneficial in keeping older minds sharp. If volunteering is not an option, consider signing up for a workshop instead. The Yale Medical Center found that seniors who socialize enjoy a higher quality of life and live longer. Getting out and meeting new people can be a great way to keep yourself healthy while enjoying the holiday season.