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

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

Tags: aging, brain aging, brain health,


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!

6/22/2009 6:28:27 PM

Have been playing the fiddle for years and just started learning clawhammer banjo . WOW ! What a different mode and new learning !!! Bernard

6/22/2009 4:37:07 PM

I studied Spanish for 5 years in middle school and high school. Now, almost 15 years later, I am taking Spanish courses again at a local Junior College and loving it! My brain responded so quickly, everything is coming back to me like I never stopped taking it. The human brain is amazing! I'm always reading-fiction, non-fiction, modern, classics. I think reading on various and wide-flung subjects keeps me sharp. I always pick up new interest and pursure them with passion. Right now, I'm learning all I can about organic gardening, composting, and changing my daily habits to be more eco-friendly and less wasteful in all aspects. The key is to mix it up! Eat new foods, read about a topic you know nothing about, try a dance class, travel to new places, play board games with friends. Read the book, "The Brain That Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge, M.D. It discusses this topic and explains how the brain works and how to keep it healthy. The book contains some fairly amazing stories of people who were able to heal brains that were injured, endured a stroke or were firing wrong from birth.

nadine _1
6/22/2009 1:03:58 PM

I returned to college last semester for my teaching degree. So I get plenty of brain exercise that way. But we've also started raising chickens and ducks. Watching and learning from them is good fun brain exercise.

6/22/2009 11:17:25 AM

I never thought of the things I do as 'brain exercise' before, however, much of it just might be! I have become an avid reader of current/world events, including politics. I love to research just about anything on the web and read about new things.. anywhere from how to build passive solar window heaters, to different religions and spiritual practises, to well... the list would be endless of what interests me now-a-days. I've also just begun "urban farming" with composting, veggie gardens, and even chickens! Maybe I ought to give myself credit... maybe even though I'm not doing crosswords or brain gym... my brain is still getting exercised!

6/22/2009 10:50:02 AM

This is the year that I will always remember as the "winds of change." Our country is seeing economic & political change; many are thinking about conserving & being self-sufficient; others are just trying to survive. I am seeing this new attitude daily with people I meet & it's happening in my home; we're gardening again, utilizing & perserving more of the fruit on our trees, and raising chickens again. We are considering what things we really need to buy to survive & keep us happy; we're waisting less & recycling more. I have become more aware of organic choices, "heritage" seeds & not hybrids which includes heritage chickens. My coop is filled with Bantam Faverolles; they are "heritage" & on the "critical" list by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. You can look the list up at that organizations website & pick a breed for yourself. Why not put a little effort into worthwhile things; it feels good & is rewarding; what better way to occupy lifes precious time & take better care of our earth. "You must be the change you wish to see in the world" MG

6/19/2009 7:41:47 PM

I have been working in the brain fitness space since 2001 and we have come along way. There has been significant scientific studies over the last 5 years that illustrate how we can maintain and develop our cognitive skills through our lifespan. Our company has started to launch pilots that provide more efficacy to our software. I truly believe the next 5 years will see a lot of positive developments in this area. Michael

fernando z.
6/19/2009 5:45:41 AM

There are many fun ways to give your brain a daily workout—some may consider it much more fun than going to the gym! From taking a class at your local community center or college, to writing letters to far-away relatives, the possibilities are endless. Here are just 5 of the ways you can keep your brain young. 1. Play games that challenge your mind. These can all provide mental stimulation. Word-oriented activities are especially helpful; studies have shown that people can continue to build vocabulary up into their 80s. 2. Visit the hobby or crafts section at a bookstore. 3. Take a course. After retirement, we need to search out growth opportunities by taking a class at a local high school or college, or volunteering for a position that will enable us to develop new skills and be stimulated by new people and ideas. 4. Write your autobiography, or create a "story of my family" book with text and pictures. It serves as a valuable, personal gift to family members, friends and your community. It also can set you on a personal journey that can be very enlightening. 5. Volunteer. Volunteering is a way to share experiences and knowledge, and to remain socially active. It is also a way to gain new knowledge and training in an area of interest, while providing a service to a favorite charity or organization. Life is not like an instant cash where it is easily given to you. It is a process, a journey. So make the best out of it. For more information, visit this site:

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!