“Spend time on puzzles.”
These are the quintessential nuggets of advice consistently repeated from doctors and experts all over the world. They say that engaging in these activities will help keep minds sharp: improve memory, help the nervous system and in turn, help people live longer. And when you decide that you want to slip into the relaxing life you envisioned (and worked so hard for), stimulating your brain and challenging yourself is now more important than ever. And with good reason. Scientifically supported, these activities will challenge your mind and stimulate communication between your individual brain cells, which helps maintain them and keep them active for longer. You could even delay dementia.
Read on to find out why it’s so important at this stage in your life, and discover the five simple (and fun) new activities you can engage in to help you achieve optimal brain health.
“Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them. Many people have jobs that keep them mentally active. Pursuing a hobby, learning a new skill, volunteering or mentoring are additional ways to keep your mind sharp.”– Harvard Health
Stimulate your mind regularly to keep it sharp and focused to help you get the most out of your retirement.
Read (or listen to) books
Advice: Read or listen to a book once a week
“One such lifestyle factor that has shown promise in delaying dementia onset is engagement in cognitively stimulating activities, such as reading, writing, and playing games” – American Academy of Neurology
From fantastical tales to inspirational real life adventures, read whatever takes your fancy for all of the benefits. Reading stimulates your brain cells even long after you’ve put the book down meaning your favourite paperback could actually help you better night’s rest, improve your focus and retain more information if you practise regular reading habits.
Don’t feel limited to physical books either, audiobooks (a recording of a book being read aloud) have the same effect. Expert neuroscientists found that listening stimulates the same cognitive and emotional parts of your brain as if you had read them yourself.
Need some new material? You can pop down to your local library or bookstore or even order online, but if you’re keen to put your tech skills to the test, try out an audiobook application for your phone, smart device or computer.
Audiobook apps to consider
Completely free, take your library membership digital with BorrowBox! Simply log in with your library membership and access hundreds of audiobooks at the touch of your fingertips. With renewals, extensions and automatic returns all organised in the app, you never need to worry about late fees.
For ebooks, audiobooks and magazines galore, download Scribd – kind of like Netflix for books. For $12.99 a month, (with a 30 day free trial to get you started) you can choose from a massive range of titles.
If you find audiobooks are your thing, it’s worth switching to Audible because of its huge selection. $16.45 a month gets you two audiobooks a month, one of your choice and one recommended by the Audible team. Give the free 30 day trial a go to see if it’s right for you.
Whether you like to read the words on the page or listen to them while going about your day, improve your focus and sharpen your mind with books in any form that work best for you.
Crosswords and mental puzzles
Advice: Do this daily.
On Sundays, do you frantically flip through the paper just to start scribbling in answers to the crosswords and puzzles? Your weekend morning ritual could actually help you keep your brain function at the same rate as someone ten years younger than your current age.
Word and number puzzles like crosswords and sudoku will improve your:
- Grammatical reasoning
- Short term memory
- Attention span
- Long-term problem solving skills.
And, as a bonus they are also lots of fun to do, so our advice is to try to incorporate some of these challenges daily.
Flex your mental muscles with one of these suggestions:
- Buy a puzzle book
If you like old fashioned pen to paper puzzles, a puzzle book might be for you. With options as cheap as $4 from Kmart to the more luxurious The New York Times Classic Crossword Puzzles, you can find something suited to any price point and skill level.
- Download a crossword or sudoku appHead to the app store on your phone or smart device and download one of the many crossword, sudoku and puzzle applications to get unlimited activities at your fingertips. Simply search crossword, sudoku or puzzle in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store application and download whatever takes your fancy!
- Try our monthly crossword
After something completely free? Along with village updates, our free monthly village newsletter contains a crossword to get your brain churning! Sign up to our mailing list on the website or download past newsletters.
From pen on paper to digital displays, there are puzzles galore available to you however you prefer.
Keep educated (easily!)
Our advice: Do one of these activities daily.
Impress the grandkids with your tech know-how, master a new found skill or divulge into the mysteries of the world. The benefits of staying educated as you age are obvious. While the importance of education is well-known, it’s never been easier to learn with so many tools out there. Here are some easy activities you can easily incorporate into your routine and act on right now:
- Listen to the radio
Old but gold, the radio is fantastic to keep up to date. Tune in to NPR’s All Things Considered, SBS Viva and RTR.FM’s On The Record for informative, interesting and invigorating stories.
- Try out a podcast
If you’re new to podcasts, they enable you to engross yourself into the topics you truly love. They’re similar to radio shows but you listen to them any time on your phone or on the internet… And there are thousands of channels available for free. To get access to podcasts all you need to do is download a free app on your phone: try Spotify.
- Podcasts you’ll love:
- Tutorials on how to get podcasts on your devices:
- Watch a YouTube video
YouTube might be your new best friend. Surprisingly useful, this online platform is filled with step-by-step tutorials, mini-documentaries and informational videos on everything you can think of. If you like to take your time, all you need to do is press “pause” and return to it later.
- Gain insight into some of the world’s most beautiful bookshops: Check out this free short documentary “Bookstores: How to read more in the golden age of content.”
- Learn about yoga: Try out Yoga with Adriene.
- Learn about the inner-workings of everyday things: Check out How Stuff Works and Things You Should Know.
- Level up your garden: Watch Gardening Australia.
You don’t have to dedicate drastic amounts of time to learn new things. Pop on the radio or your favourite podcast when you complete errands around the home to add a little info boost to your day.
A healthy mind means a happy retirement. So what are you waiting for? Pickup that book on your bedside table, download a new app or explore the world of podcasts and YouTube videos. It’s time to move those mental muscles.
The secret to the ultimate retirement lies in a thoughtful routine that keeps you active, social, maximises your finances and of course puts those brain cells to work. Learn more about How to Make the Most Out of Your Life During Retirement here.