The brain is like a muscle. To prevent him from losing his abilities, he must be stimulated. Moving, maintaining social relationships and participating in memorization or reasoning exercises help improve brain capacities, even at an advanced age.
Cognitive functions decline with age. It becomes difficult to stay focused for a long time, pay attention to detail, do more than one thing at a time, and memorize new information.
Thus, an elderly person will take longer to learn another language or will search for words more often, the famous feeling of having the “word on the tip of the tongue”, explains Isabelle Rouleau, full professor in the Department of Psychology at the ‘University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).
The phenomenon is normal. It is explained by the decrease in the volume of white matter which contains the fibers ensuring the connection of neurons to each other.
The transmission of information to the brain therefore travels less quickly.
While it is impossible to prevent the aging of the brain, it can be slowed down by stimulating our cognitive functions.
The first piece of advice from the one who is also an associate researcher in neurosciences at the Center hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) research center is to maintain good lifestyle habits: move, eat well and sleep.
Studies have shown that people who practice regular aerobic activity (walking, cycling, dancing, swimming, etc.) improve their results when carrying out certain cognitive tests, while deficiencies of certain vitamins (B12, folic acid , etc.) can interfere with memory.
As for sleep, at the paradoxical stage it allows the recapitulation and consolidation of learning.
Stimulate your brain
Then comes the maintenance of intellectual activities to “stimulate” the brain.
A term more apt than that of “training”, according to Mme Roller. “Training involves repeating the same gestures or activities. ”
“With the brain, it is better to bet on diversity and activities that will have an impact on a daily basis. For example, if you play a picture memory game, after 20 hours of training you will become good at this task, but this will not necessarily translate into daily improvements. In a name memory exercise, for example, your performance will be the same whether or not you have done 20 hours of training with images, ”explains Mme Roller.
The many programs that offer exercises to do at home to improve memory are often based on the principle of repetition.
This way, users improve their performance in front of the computer, but studies show that these workouts do not help them remember products at the grocery store or remember the names of people they met in the previous week.
Does this mean that they are unnecessary?
” Not necessarily. They can help if they offer several levels of play and if they can be linked to reality. But the most effective, and the most enjoyable, is to have diversified activities ”, according to Mr.me Roller.
Diversify its activities
Reading, card or board games, puzzles, practicing an art, learning a language or a musical instrument, gardening, knitting, surfing the internet, cultural activities, such as museums, shows, concerts, are all stimuli that promote cognitive reserve and maintain proper brain function.
“Learning a new language, trying new activities and taking an interest in new subjects are daily habits suspected of being associated with better maintenance of cognitive abilities,” reports Isabelle Rouleau, citing the initiative of the chief scientist who encouraged Quebecers to discover the birds that frequent their yards while they are confined to their homes.
You can also work on your memory, concentration and logic while having fun thanks to board games.
For example, chess and bridge require you to develop and retain a strategy, while scrabble, crossword puzzles and sudoku require specific rules and have several levels of difficulty that encourage you to exceed your abilities.
Bond and socialize
Board games also have the advantage of strengthening social bonds, an important factor in preventing cognitive decline.
Nurturing relationships has been shown to make you want to get together and share activities that stimulate the brain and help maintain cognitive abilities.
“Having a conversation involves making connections with people you’ve met, remembering past events or even organizing your ideas to tell the story of the film you’ve seen. These are all exercises that keep our brain alert, ”explains Isabelle Rouleau.
Social activities also have the advantage of supporting an active lifestyle, increasing self-esteem, preventing isolation, reducing stress and reducing the risk of depression.
What he must remember
- Aging leads to a decrease in cognitive functions.
- Reading, games and new learning could delay brain aging.
- Social activities help prevent cognitive decline.
- Getting active, eating well, and sleeping helps keep your brain healthy.