Mind-bending puzzles aren’t the only route to improving memory and reason. Activities that engage your emotions and senses may be even better.
In the midst of promotions for commercial brain training programs to ward off age-related cognitive decline, a few studies are beginning to indicate that simple pleasures may be even more productive. You may find that doing one of the following is an easier and more rewarding way to boost your brain than doing computer-based exercises.
1. Care for a dog
“There’s a reason dogs are called our best friends: not only do they offer unparalleled companionship, but a growing body of research shows they also boost our health,” says Dr. Elizabeth Pegg Frates, clinical assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and medical editor of the Harvard Special Health Report Get Healthy, Get a Dog(www.health.harvard.edu/DOG). In a 2011 Italian study of women in their 80s, those who spent 90 minutes a week stroking, grooming, walking, or playing with a dog scored significantly higher on mental tests than they did before they were introduced to the dogs. They also scored higher than a control group of similar women who had no canine interaction. If you don’t want a live-in canine companion, consider volunteering at an animal shelter.