Help others stay sharp, healthy and happy
Eat well. Exercise regularly. Get enough sleep. We all know the common everyday habits for staying healthy. But one vital organ should never be overlooked: The brain is a critical piece of the total wellness puzzle.
Linked to everything else in the body, your brain controls all of your daily activities—fitness and otherwise—so give it the attention, exercise and care it needs. The benefits you’ll see in return are endless, from staying mentally sharp for years to come to preventing memory loss. You can even reduce the risk of certain brain diseases, including dementias.
Help your friends and neighbors stay sharp and get the most out of life as they age. There are many ways to get involved to benefit brain health in your community.
Spread the word on staying sharp
Healthy minds help everyone—so make sure others know the importance of treating their brains well. From online campaigns to word of mouth, there are many ways to increase awareness.
Organizations across the nation regularly hold campaigns throughout the year to support brain health. One better-known campaign is the Dana Foundation’s Brain Awareness Week in March, which includes many opportunities to lend a hand across the nation (and world!).
You can also support research and education through groups like the American Brain Foundation, which drives discovery of brain disease causes and cures. Get involved in one of its regular Brain Health Fairs or explore its other volunteer activities in your local community.
Mind your community
Make sure those around you—especially older adults—know why and how to take care of their brains. From a neighbor down the street or volunteer at a nursing home or community center, everyone could use a hand exercising the mind. What can you do to help others take care of their brain health every day?
One way to help is simply visiting and chatting with them on a regular basis. Ask questions, bring along games or talk about current events, childhood stories or other topics. Sometimes just engaging in conversation is a great way for older adults—especially those who live alone—to keep on their toes.
Another way is to actually help out with some brain exercises while you’re with the person. This will show them it doesn’t have to be a chore—in fact; games are a great, interactive place to start.
Exercise the brain together
The brain learns and retains new things throughout life—but it needs practice! Here are some ways to help your friend keep his or her mind sharp. (Added bonus: You’ll be promoting your own brain health at the same time!)
- Lend them books to read regularly—and then ask about them—or you can even join a book club together. It’s more fun to chat about a good book if you’ve both read it.
- Bring along activities and challenge them to a game. Card games, riddles, word games and number games all stimulate the mind, strengthening its cells and the connections among them. Plus, they are fun activities to play together. Also: Try leaving a crossword puzzle behind!
- Set up a puzzle at their house—an easy, non-committal activity to do in small doses or as you pass by the table. Just make sure you ask where to set it up first!
- Offer to teach them a new skill or hobby they don’t know—like cooking, a language or playing a new instrument—or suggest taking lessons together.
- On each visit, bring along a new word or fact. This can be an informal conversation starter, and you can even challenge them to bring along their own factoid or two to share with you.
- Find more exercises to take along on your visit from AARP Brain Fitness.
Lastly, leave your friend or loved one with these key tips about good brain health so they can keep them in mind when you aren’t around:
Stay physically active: Just as the brain keeps the body healthy, exercise helps the mind. Keep active to promote blood flow: Walk, garden, bike, dance—anything that keeps you moving.
Eat well: What does a brain-healthy diet mean? A low-cholesterol, low-fat diet is a good place to start. Generally, a balanced diet—low sugar and caffeine, plenty of water and a variety of fruits and veggies—will benefit mental health.
Visit often: Spending time with family, friends and loved ones—those who make you laugh and feel good about yourself—can go a long way for your mind. Make your visits regular.
Show them you’re there to help: If they aren’t feeling on top of their game or beginning to experience memory loss or signs of brain disease, let them know you’re there to talk. Lend an ear, give encouragement or help them get in touch with a doctor.
Know Before You Go
Before you help others, brush up on the importance of brain health yourself. Discover more about keeping your brain sharp—and helping others to do the same—with AARP’s Brain Health and Wellness Center. Learn how factors like diet and fitness play in.
The Alzheimer’s Association also focuses largely on brain health, as a healthy mind helps to prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Its resources include prevention research and an entire section dedicated to brain health.
Is Your Community a Top 10 Brain Health State?
America’s Brain Health Index ranks each state around the nation on its overall brain health. Rankings are based on 21 measures, including diet, mental health and social well-being. Find out if your community is in the rankings, and if not, help it get ahead by lending a hand.
Help Others, Improve Your Health
Volunteering for brain health can help keep your mind sharp too, especially if you are an older adult. Card games, puzzles and other activities give your mind a good stretch—but so does giving to a cause that matters to you. Volunteering in general has shown to have positive effects on happiness, brain-power and overall health.