An intellectually stimulating lifestyle predicts better maintenance of cognitive skills as we age, and is also associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in late life.
Meaningful social contact and engagement are also predictive indicators of better cognitive functioning in older adults.
While a large body of work already exists on the benefits of an enriched childhood environment, the research evidence is more recent on the benefits of keeping up with stimulating cognitive activities as we age.
Cognitive stimulation and social engagement in part rely on the process of neuroplasticity – the biological method for how our brain responds to its environment – learning the skills and adaptive behavior necessary to survive and thrive.
Since novelty and challenge are important ingredients for cognitive stimulation, try out these ideas:
Learn a second (or third) language. Speaking two languages can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by several years, according to this neurology study.
Take a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) – many of these open access classes are completely free. MOOC List, edX, and Coursera are three popular sites listing a huge variety of courses.
What are your interests and passions? Positive and consistent social engagement can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and also lower resting blood pressure. Local Facebook groups are a great way to get and stay in the loop. VolunteerMatch.org links people with volunteer choices in their local community. Sixty and Me also has some great ideas for volunteering.
Have other ideas for social and cognitively stimulating activities? Use the comments area below.