How learning a new skill can improve memory in senior adults

Crossword puzzles. Crafting. Physical activity.

These and other mentally stimulating activities have long been known to improve memory and brain activity in senior adults. However, studies show that learning a new skill altogether may prevent memory loss more effectively than participating in familiar activities.

According to researchers, senior adults who learn a new craft, such as digital photography or painting, see more improvement to their memory than those who engage in mentally stimulating activities with which they’re already comfortable.

“It seems it is not enough just to get out and do something—it is important to get out and do something that is unfamiliar and mentally challenging, and that provides broad stimulation mentally and socially,” said Denise Park of the University of Texas at Dallas in an article with the Association for Psychological Science. “When you are inside your comfort zone you may be outside of the enhancement zone.”

How can seniors break the mold and learn something new? Here are four easy ways older adults, whether living in a senior living community or traditional neighborhood, can start fresh on a new skill.

1. Take advantage of life enrichment opportunities. Whether it’s a new fitness class or an outing to a new place, the monthly activities calendar is always full of different things to try.

2. Get friends involved. The best way to start something new and make it last is to get friends on board with you. Find something you’re all interested in and partner together to become masters.

3. Tell your family. Your children and grandchildren will be thrilled you’re learning something new, and many will want to jump on board with you.

4. Check out the local bookstore. Whether you want to score a hole in one or learn a foreign language, most local bookstores have a how-to book on just about anything.

It’s never too late to learn something new. Besides, if you can make some memories and keep your mind sharp in the process, what is there to lose?

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