Exercise your brain during winter
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By Julie Ann Anderson  January 4, 2013 12:00 am

The winter months can sometimes become boring for our aging parents and other seniors. With cooler weather, especially when heavy rains and/or flooding are involved, comes fewer opportunities to enjoy being outdoors.
So if you’re stuck inside, find some ways to keep you and your loved ones mentally active and engaged. Did you get an iPad for Christmas this year? Using your iPad is a great way to enjoy all of the suggestions mentioned in this article.
 
Turn the TV off or on
It’s easy to fall into a rut and spend hours in front of the television set, watching even when you don’t particularly enjoy the program that’s on. Too much TV is ultimately bad for anyone, so make sure that there are alternatives that challenge the mind and exercise the brain muscles. That way you not only keep things interesting, but you also help keep the brain younger and less likely to deteriorate. If you do need some "tube time", consider watching classic shows together on Netflix or other sites. Ask Mom or Dad what their favorites are.
 
Pick up the pieces
Puzzles are a great way to engage your brain and have fun at the same time. Jigsaw puzzles are a lot of fun, especially because they can be a social activity as well; several people can work on a puzzle at one time and hold conversations while doing so.
Crossword puzzles are also enjoyable, and these too can be done by more than one person. They require you to use word recognition and thought processing with obvious benefits. Number puzzles, such as Sudoku, exercise a different part of your brain. You might also try brain teasers, word jumbles, and cryptoquotes (phrases or sentences written in a code that you must break.)
 
Get artsy, stay crafty
Arts and crafts call upon the parts of the brain used in creative endeavors. You don’t have to be a da Vinci to do some watercolors or a Rodin to make a clay sculpture; the joy is in the creation and the activity, not in the aesthetic beauty of the result.
Crafts can be simple activities such as making an igloo out of ice cubes, or more complex ones such as using cardboard to make a model of the neighborhood. 
The point is to have fun in whatever you decide to do. Need some inspiration? Check out DIY.org. It's designed for kids, but has fun projects with video tutorials and instructions.
 
Get booked
There really is nothing like a good book, and reading can take you into worlds that are new and exciting. If eyesight is an issue, there are many wonderful audiobooks available at your local library. Or, try reading aloud to your mom or dad – just like they used to do for you.
 
You got game
There are an incredible number of board games out there today. You can pick one that really causes you to think, such as chess or Scrabble, or one that just requires a bit of concentration, such as Parcheesi or Life. Board games are often a big hit when you want something to do that includes the children, too.
 
It’s in the cards
A little deck of 52 playing cards can provide hours of entertainment.
Whether you're playing Slap Jack, poker, Crazy Eights, or any number of other games, cards can keep your brain on its toes and happy.
 Our aging parents and other seniors want to be active and engaged.
Bears hibernate in the winter, but seniors' brains shouldn’t. Keeping the brain healthy makes a win-win situation for everyone.

Julie Ann is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and is a passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her blog, homeinsteadsonoma.com to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or healthy aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.

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