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Dementia is more likely to occur in people above 60 but it can happen to adults at any age. You may still be in your prime years but don’t let this disease creep up on you. Give your brain the workout it needs and start as early as possible. With regular mental stimulation, you have a better chance of your brain remaining nimble and sharp as you age.

Related: Warning Signs of Dementia

Fire Up Your Brain With Learning


Studies have shown that learning creates new connections between the neurons in your brain, especially if you are attempting a skill completely out of your domain. Now’s the chance to put your SkillsFuture credits to good use!

  1. Language: Learning a new language challenges your brain to make new connections. Try mastering another of Singapore’s four official languages, learn a dialect, or choose a language that matches your interests. For example, if you learn Korean, you might one day be able to watch a Korean movie without subtitles.

  2. Arts and craft: Creating art stimulates all your senses and improves brain functions. It’s also relaxing and relieves stress. Don’t limit yourself to adult colouring books or painting. Try crafts such as cake decoration, origami or even 3D printing.

  3. Music and dance: Listen to different genres of music or learn to sing. Better still, learn to play simple musical instruments such as the ukulele or find a partner and head for the dance floor. Music and dance make your hands, feet, eyes and brain work together. This keeps your mental connections engaged and alive, with the added benefit of social interaction.

  4. Technology: Embrace technology by learning computer skills, smartphone apps, or teach yourself to take better digital photos or videos. But don’t let technology rob you of mental exercise. For example, make an effort to remember and key in your own passwords, or go old school and engage in group activities such as orienteering, instead of using Google Map.

  5. Everyday skills: Want something more practical? How about cooking and baking? Or you can learn to assemble your own furniture, fix your taps and home lightings, or pick up barista skills to make yourself a cappuccino. Working out the step-by-step processes involved is a good workout for your brain.

These activities can double-up as family bonding time if you learn together. Give yourself the opportunity to try, find out what you like and maybe you will have a new hobby for life.

Related: Dance Your Way to Health

Mental Workouts on the Go

 

What if you, like many others juggling work and family, are hard pressed for time? Try brain workouts in small doses while you are out and about. See what works for you in your routines and schedules.

  1. Commuting: The time you spend on the MRT or buses to and from work or play, are great for playing logic-based games. Simply bring along a Sudoku or crossword puzzle book, a Rubik’s cube, or download logic or word games into your smartphone. You will never be bored again if you are caught in a travel delay.

  2. Driving: Can’t play while you’re driving? Let your ears take over. Listen to podcasts, audio books, or crank up the music and belt out your favourite songs.

  3. Travelling: The long hours you spend in planes or trains can be great for mental exercises. For example, you can teach yourself local phrases to use at your destination, or practise currency conversion mentally to ready yourself for some shopping when you arrive.

Related: Stop Wishing Start Doing

Build a Network of Support


Strong relationships with the important people in your life keep stress away, stimulate your mind and make you a happier person.

However, social circles do not necessarily expand as age increases. In fact, making new friends and keeping them may become harder as you mature, become busier and more set in your ways. But it’s never too late to connect with the people around you if you are willing to make that first move.

  1. Family: Take time to build your relationship with each member of your family. For example, have one-on-one meals when you can have deeper conversations and connections.

  2. Keep your forever friends: Don’t let go of your buddies while you build your career or nurture your young family. You can organise annual get-togethers, attend school reunions, or go on holidays together. This way, you will still have each other to count on in your empty nest years ahead.

  3. Join interest groups: A common hobby brings people together, creates conversation topics and generates many social activities. Volunteering is one way to find like-minded people. Joining an exercise group is another.

It takes just a smile to connect with your colleagues, neighbours, or the auntie at the hawker centre handing you your lunch. Chances are, they will return your smile. That could be your first step to a new connection, socially and mentally.


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References

  1. Alban, D. (n.d.). How Music Affects the Brain for the Better [Website].
    Retrieved September 2017 from https://bebrainfit.com/music-affects-brain/

  2. Edwards, S. (n.d.). Dancing and the Brain [Website].
    Retrieved September 2017 from http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/dancing-and-brain

  3. Heerema, E. (2016, Sep 06). Does Social Interaction Prevent Dementia? [Website].
    Retrieved September 2017 from https://www.verywell.com/social-interaction-preventing-dementia-98425

  4. Greenberg, M. (2012, Aug 12). How to Prevent Stress from Shrinking Your Brain [Website].
    Retrieved September 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201208/how-prevent-stress-shrinking-your-brain

  5. Solan, M. (2016 Apr 27). Back to school: Learning a new skill can slow cognitive aging [Website].
    Retrieved September 2017 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/learning-new-skill-can-slow-cognitive-aging-201604279502