Throughout our lives we progress through a number of stages, each of which presents us with mental challenges and opportunities to exercise our minds. As children we learn the basic constructs of language, then enter school, where we study various topics such as mathematics, science, social studies, and foreign languages.
From grade school we graduate to high school, then on to university and eventually to our careers. Each step of the way we are presented with new tasks that challenge us to think in new ways, keeping our minds fresh and facilitating continued mental growth.
Retirement can come as a bit of a shock to the mental system. For the first time in our lives, we are no longer required to use our minds. With no job or schooling to challenge us, it is easy to neglect our mental faculties and allow our minds to stagnate. This can lead to a vicious downward cycle that ultimately results in a system-wide decline. It is commonly noted that physical vitality and strength tend to decline once the mental faculties are allowed to become lazy, and this is why so many people seem to suffer physical and mental stagnation after retirement. Without the challenge and stimulation of daily problem solving and learning, we allow ourselves to weaken to a point that is often terminal.
One way for those of retirement age to keep their minds fresh is to engage in daily brainteasers. Games such as crossword puzzles and Sudoku are not only fun, but also effective tools for keeping our minds fresh. Another great way to exercise the mind is to read. Unfortunately, the common approach to caregiving tends to involve a comfortable chair in front of a television, which in reality does patients no favors.
If you are providing care for someone who seems to be lacking in mental stimulation, consider turning off the television and providing them with a stack of brainteasers and books.