Simple memory games and word building activities can help senior citizens stay mentally alert and challenged. Radha Prathi works with senior members at Nightingale’s Elders Enrichment Centre at Sanjay Nagar and writes about simple mental exercises for seniors.
As people grow older, memory often starts failing them and so do their motor skills. Medical science has proved that it is possible to prevent Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease if we keep our brains exercised on a regular basis. While physical exercise helps the body, a daily dose of Sudoku or Crossword can do the needful for the mind. However not everyone can play these games for various reasons. They may simply not have the taste or knack for it, or may not be equipped with enough language or mathematical skills to play the same. Similarly, one may not have enough stamina or a conducive health condition to keep their hands flexible. Here are a few ideas to help the grey cells to exercise and to hone your motor skills while resting in an arm chair.
Word Building is one of the oldest and commonest ways to learning words and their spellings. It also serves as a test of memory when played in large groups, because if a word is repeated then it will result in loss of points for the player. Usually, this activity needs at least two people to keep the game going and a little tweak can be added to it. It can be played in the written form, where you have to form a word chain on the principles of word building within a given time span. At the end of the session the chains could be evaluated by a friend or a member of the family in terms of rules, spelling and repetitions. The word chain could break at any point of time rendering the player with points as long as he/she maintains the chain. Keeping a score of the chains will see your points increasing magically over a period of time.
Sometimes family and friends may find it difficult to appreciate your oft repeated stories retold with great gusto. Nevertheless, they will be happy if you document the same stories for posterity and for the the extended family that is usually scattered across the globe these days. Jog your memory, take it back as far as you can and design a family tree. Pepper the characters with one or two well known anecdotes to make the person come alive. The exercise will involve getting in touch with people for procuring photographs, sharing memories and insights. This delightful project can not only help you spend your time in a pleasurable way but will also leave you with a sense of fulfillment for having done something productive. If you are computer savvy key in the details. If not, it is never too late to learn. S Thiagarajan, a veteran photographer featured in Silver Talkies, is creating his Family Tree at 97! You can too!
Make a list of all the places that you have lived in or visited right from the day you were born. Rummage your shelf for the atlas you had stowed away. Get hold of an outline map of our country or the world based on the region of your travel. Trace the journey of your life. If you want, you can make brief notes about the place and your personal impressions and memories associated with the place. It would turn out to be a fun exercise and you can involve your grandchildren too!
Buy a nice new notebook. Write out a theme on alternate pages. The themes could be listing out fruits, vegetables, animals, birds, places, metals, colours, professions, subjects, and language or for that matter anything under the sun. Then jot down the names that come to your mind. Initially, you might be able to fill a few lines immediately. The challenge begins only when you start trying to recollect all those other words stored in the backburner of your memory. The same Thematic vocabulary can be converted into a multilingual task. This game can prove to be a reality check of finding out how many equivalents you know for Okra or Butterfly!
Name, Place, Animal, Thing
The game called Name, Place, Animal, Thing, which filled you with joy as a kid is perfectly capable of unfolding its magic once again. Play it with your gang of friends, correct each other’s books and have fun all over again. Just in case you have forgotten the rules of the game you can consult children in and around your home. Yes, children of Gen X also play this game occasionally.
If taking a dictation of grocery and laundry list has bored you, take a dictation of a different sort. Tune into your spouse’s favourite soap when he or she is away and note down all the key dialogues and punctuate them with suitable emoticons. Try creating some of your own, who knows you might get a patent for it. This is also an opportunity to exercise you ability to write in vernaculars.
Movies and serials
Make a list of all the movies you have watched. Try to recall the story line, the artists, songs and memories associated with it and document them in the form of short essays. If you find that you are shortchanged for memory, it will prove to be a good excuse to watch the movie again.
These are but a few ideas to help a senior citizen keep failing memory at bay and keep their brain challenged. It could be suitably improvised and worked upon according to the needs and tastes of the individual or groups. The ideas suggested does not hold good only for a specific language. The task can be carried out in a language you are familiar with. If you spend half an hour on these exercises, you are sure to keep your mind sharp and occupied.