To Inaugurate, or Not to Inaugurate? Aging Minds Want to Know!

Regardless of your political stance, no doubt the upcoming inauguration is near the forefront of your mind as we, as a nation, take either bold and confident or tentative and fearful steps behind our new leader. Is America really going to be “great again”? Will this inauguration ceremony take its place in the laurels of history, alongside John F. Kennedy’s, “Ask not what your country can do for you…”speech? Or will it be more in line with Andrew Johnson’s lesser heralded, “medicinal-whiskey-laden” slurs? Time will tell…

And speaking of time: those of us who’ve lived through more of it are constantly on the lookout for ways to enhance the quality of what we have remaining. One of the most effective ways to sharpen our minds as we age is through, coincidentally, inaugurating – defined as commencing, beginning, initiating. Trying new things, meeting new people, learning new skills – all are beneficial for both the aging brain and body.

While the first impulse may be to download one of the many new apps aimed at improving our memory, it’s actually now being determined that a better option would be to take up a new mentally challenging hobby, particularly one that affords opportunities to make new social connections.

A study involving 200 older adults who were tasked with learning a new skill, such as quilting or digital photography, showed significant benefit:

“We found quite an improvement in memory, and we found that when we tested our participants a year later, that was maintained,” according to Dr. Denise Park, neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas.

While the online memory games certainly can’t hurt, their effects are limited to only short-term memory improvement. Conversely, learning a new skill, and incorporating social connections, builds up complete networks in the brain.

So, what’s stopping you from trying something new? Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”