3 Ways to Stretch Your Mind

By Shirley Brosius

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Too often, we settle into routines of eating, sleeping, puttering and watching television without thought of what these habits do to our bodies and brains. Most of us know exercise is good for our bodies, but our minds also need exercise.

When I bought my husband an iPad as a gift, he soon became hooked on playing word games with friends. He also watches golfing tutorials, and when I tell him about something I just heard on the news, he has already seen it on his iPad. This little device stretches his mind. Here are three suggestions to stretch your mind.

Taking Courses to Learn Something New:

I love learning. In my 70s (not “the ’70s”), I discovered college-level courses that can be downloaded, watched on DVD or listened to from audio recordings. So far, I’ve worked my way through topics ranging from cooking and nutrition to writing and speaking. I’m ready to start a course on fiction writing. That will stretch my mind in new ways since I’m a nonfiction writer.

Many colleges also offer free or inexpensive online non-credit courses. I once watched “Luscious, Low-Fat, Lightning-Fast Meals” offered by my community college. No matter your interests — photography, history, carpentry — there are courses available. And plenty of lectures are available free on YouTube.

Learning something new is a great way to keep our minds nimble. So, if you’re like me and find learning fun, sign up for a course today. We’re never too old to develop new interests.

Making Choices to Stay Current:

As a schoolgirl, I often referred to an encyclopedia for fascinating information and, when we married, we soon purchased our own set. We considered those books a necessity.

Who knew that the advent of computers would change how we get information? And who knew how the information we need to survive would change? We barely learned how to use cellphones before we had to navigate smartphones. Devices like iPads, iPhones and a host of other options stretch our iMinds as we pick and choose what serves our purposes.

My local senior centre offers computer classes for those willing to learn something new. I have friends who refuse to use even an answering machine because they like things as they were. That is their choice. But there is much to be enjoyed by staying current. If we buy a computer, we can pay our bills online and save postage. With computers and phones, we can stay in touch with friends through email, Facebook and other social media. If we subscribe to caller identification, we can ignore unfamiliar callers and keep ourselves safe from scams.

We may find it daunting to keep up with it all, but younger people are always eager to help. Just ask a child or grandchild, and they’ll gladly show you all they know. Embrace rather than abase technology.

Giving Contributions to Others:

Perhaps you’ve acquired skills and knowledge through the years that may be utilized in the community — at volunteer organizations or senior centres. We have a local centre for nature and art where many senior adults serve as volunteers to run a gift shop and help host educational programs.

If you worked with computers before retirement, share your knowledge with someone just learning about technology. Some schools match students who lack role models with adults willing to invest time and energy into getting to know them. We have acquired a storehouse of knowledge and experience. Let’s pass it on.

A friend cuts up used greeting cards to create hanging ornaments she gives patients at a hospital where she serves as a volunteer. She recently asked my husband, who enjoys woodworking, to cut boards of poplar wood into small pieces. She painted them, added an encouraging word and distributed them. To keep your mind strong, use it to help others.

Smart people stay smart by exercising their minds along with their bodies. Check your daily schedule. Turn time wasters into mind stretchers and you could soon find deep satisfaction and fulfillment in your senior years.

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