Research keeps revealing that each of us can make more of our brain as we age than we might have expected. To keep our brain sharp requires motivation and focus.
The human brain evolved to last about 40 years. On average we now live over twice as long, so it’s not surprising our brains are a bit stretched! Not only are we living longer – we must cope with greater amounts of information pushing for space, along with the stresses of modern living.
The good news is that about a third of people retain much of their mental acuity, while another half experience gentle decline but remain capable of independent living.
To keep our brain as sharp as possible there are many things worth doing. A first step is a growth mindset – to believe we are always capable of learning. Recent research showed two key brain functions, which allow us to attend to new information and to focus on what’s important in each situation, can in fact improve in older individuals.
Experience and Capabilities
Our ‘personal capital’ can be said to be the sum of our capabilities and our experience, which together make us valuable and productive.
Our brain supports us in this with memories, reflexes and capacity for understanding and resolving the regular challenges of life.
Identifying our main capabilities and the key elements of our experience can help us decide what aspects we want to maintain and continue to use. We may choose to maintain this in our normal work or activities or choose new ones which may be paid or unpaid. Review our knowledge library article on Personal Capital.
What should we focus on?
The well-being of our brain is closely linked to the well-being of our whole body. Here’s a few pointers –more is available in the Knowledge library.
Sleep – poor sleep (especially deep sleep, which is said to be the ‘restorative’ part of our sleep pattern) is not necessarily related to getting older. Factors to address include regular sleep routines, managing bed temperature more closely, eating (the right things for the last meal of the day, and its timing), screen use (phones, TV).
Exercise influences almost every aspect of the rest of our life - our longevity. Physical exercise improves our ability to manage a huge variety of conditions, including brain-related problems such as depression and anxiety, and in maintaining memory.
Cognitive training is increasingly attracting support for brain health. A key factor is how it provides challenges arising from less familiar situations. Two online providers are www.lumosity.com and www.brainhq.com. Not everyone likes computer-based programs, so activities that challenge you like dancing and languages may be more attractive.
Diet – a healthy balance of protein, fat, dietary fibre, carbohydrates and salt with restrictions on trans-fats, refined sugars and alcohol is good for the whole body, not just the brain. The Mediterranean diet remains the benchmark for striking the balance.
Friends are an important part of keeping our focus – share your goals and experiences with them. New friends can stimulate you with their different outlooks and approach to life.
It’s good to have a framework to keep all this in focus. That’s why we developed the Longevity Plan – the framework to make the best of the rest of your life.