Dr. Seth Carter: Headed for retirement? Keep your mind sharp with brain games

This article first appeared online at GoErie.com on Nov. 27, 2022.

As we grow older, many of us look forward to retirement because we imagine it to be a time free of life’s challenges. We envision exciting, long vacations and travel.

But when that day actually arrives, we often find ourselves questioning what to do, and end up being more passive and watching TV. Without much stimulation, our minds begin to decline.

Instead of falling into the trap of doing nothing, we need to keep our minds active by playing brain games. Our brains need a workout as much as our bodies require exercise.

Exercising our minds keeps them sharp and can delay many effects of aging on the brain.

Try crossword puzzles, word search games, logic puzzles, card games, memory games and matching shapes. If you’re in the mood for strategies and you have someone to challenge you, consider a game of chess, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit or other board games.

Memory games that young children play are good games to review as an aging adult. They help us maintain our cognitive ability.

Do you have the opportunity to teach someone something? Even better! Teaching requires you to take the knowledge from your memory and use it.

Social interaction helps maintain brain health and stimulate continued growth and memory development. It also naturally introduces opportunities to reminisce and potentially reduce stress.

Research shows that sharing stories helps our minds to relive experiences, which keeps synapses in the brain active.

Find people with whom to talk, walk and dine. Visit friends with intention: Ask them about their childhood while eating a healthy salad. Play games and puzzles together. Go on nature walks together.

The more social you are, the easier it is to stick to healthy lifestyles that will enrich your mind.

If your living situation doesn’t allow for a lot of social interaction, you can find several online games that offer additional benefits. Note: Many electronic, app-style games make claims they can reduce memory loss or other medical decline, but many of them don’t have research to support these claims.

Other devices to improve recall and memory include handwriting instead of typing, studying photographs and repeating important information so our brains record it as permanent knowledge.

When you are trying to memorize something, a comfortable environment is important. Choose a favorite desk or chair.

You may want to have some healthy snacks nearby, or soft music playing, and lighting that promotes energy or focus.

Exercising our brains daily with cognitive games helps us improve our problem-solving and analyzing skills in addition to strengthening our memory. Our brain is a vital organ to keep living a healthy lifestyle.

Besides saving all our memories, it also helps us manage our daily activities successfully.

If you are, identify a hobby and people you want to spend time with, and discover other ways to keep stimulating your brain and staying active and social.

Dr. Seth Carter is a geriatric and family medicine specialist at the LECOM Institute for Successful Aging and Eastside Medical Center.

Dr. Seth Carter

Call (814) 868-3488 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Carter at LECOM Institute for Successful Aging. Call (814) 452-6383 to schedule an appointment at Eastside Medical Center.