Aging and Brain Health: What Have You Been Learning Lately?

| 6/18/2009 2:08:11 PM


Violin Lessons 

 Learning a new instrument or language may help
 keep your mind sharp.

According to Can Memory Loss be Prevented?, from the New York Times, recent cognitive study suggests that learning a challenging new skill, such as a new language or musical instrument, “may be even more effective than mental games [think Sudoku] at keeping the brain sharp.” While crossword puzzles alone can aid in very specific types of mental agility, such as word recall, you may get more significant results with “mental cross-training” — specifically, trying a variety of activities, especially those that will challenge your brain in “entirely different ways, preferably for years.”

“One problem with aging is that you develop expertise in a few things and do them over and over,” said Dr. Carstensen [director of the Center on Longevity at Stanford University]. “Proficiency is good, but it’s probably not growing new synapses.”

The benefits of taking up a new activity aren't limited to good brain health (though that's certainly worthy on it's own). As part of one recent study, participant Bob Branham, 78, was randomly assigned to take up quilting — and discovered he loved it. In addition to staying sharp as a tack, Branham found a new passion, is making new friends and developing new skills, and might even start a new business. Not a bad list of side effects.

Have you taken up a challenging new hobby or activity recently?


Kristina Norrad
6/23/2009 5:50:16 PM

In the last 5 years I finally got my divorce after 33years of marriage and got remarried 3 weeks ago...bought 8 hectres of land and am delveloping hopefully a certified organic greenhouse producing micro greens and herbs...I bought a couple of the smartest pigletts , a half a doz..chickens and a few ring neck pheasants..along with putting in an acre veggie and flower garden each..I started to use relaxation and meditation tapes..great for the mirgaines and stiff muscles..I highly reconmend them..All I have to do now is get caught up with the harvests and the weeds that i pick for the pigs and way in___will i keep ahead of the (weeds) what I call food/ meds in more ways then one..LOVING the busy schedule

6/23/2009 12:11:22 PM

I have always been a reader, and I look for Adult Ed community courses as well. About 3 years ago, at age 60, I started playing the online game, World of Warcraft. Initially I started playing just to spend time with my grown kids who are still gamers. I have since found that my reaction time has sped up (both physically and mentally), I'm more aware than I was before, and I've had to develop some strategy skills that I've always lacked. Since there are so many facets to the game, I find I'm more interested in other non-computer things as well - I've gotten out of my rut, so to speak. It's also been a wonderful way to while away a cold and snowy winter's day here in Montana.

6/23/2009 2:01:19 AM

In addition to the things mentioned in a prior comment that included gardening, fruit perserving & heritage chicken raising, there has been a lot of stimulating research on these subjects. I had forgotten to mention that I had taken up the violin/fiddle rencently. My husband has added new songs to his acoustic guitar playing list, has started playing a 12 string also, & we have been singing up a storm together; good ole fashion fun that fills our hearts with joy. We also are closing our business on Saturdays (not a busy day for us) to give us a 2 day weekend off; we now have more time to do fun projects, research & relax. These are all small steps that help keep active mentally & physically; it has made all the difference to us & improved our outlook on life. What will we try next!

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