Brain Stuff - Interactive and Developmental Activities
Most in society keep themselves mentally alert with a bevy of activities. Those with reduced intellectual capacity need active motivation. This is especially relevant over the coming holiday period.
A recent publication by the Department of Human Services, Disability Services, Victoria, is the
Standards Evidence Guide. This publication, like most departmental care policies, standards
and values, promotes quality of life care and support.
The Standards Evidence Guide, in particular, promotes service monitoring and evaluation:
• Regular monitoring of staff competency in relation to strengths-based, active engagement, early intervention approaches and capacity-building strategies.
• Regular monitoring of the alignment of practice with documented processes in client records.
• Monitoring of trends in people re-accessing a service.
Feedback mechanisms include capacity for people to comment on:
• Active engagement strategies [This is a major factor in quality of life care]
• Intervention strategies.
Regular review of the documented processes occurs and reflects:
• the involvement of people who use the service, staff, volunteers, carers and other stakeholders.
• links to service planning and delivery.
• feedback to people who use the service, staff, volunteers, carers and other stakeholders.
This publication, therefore, promotes the need to be as mentally active as ones intellectual capacity will allow, or can be promoted and encouraged to be through consistent interactive, developmental and social activities.
Interactive, developmental and social activity improves behaviour and selfesteem for all.
People who are more intellectually and socially active have, on average, a better quality of life. Social connectedness has been measured in different ways:
• the number of social activities people do
• the size of peoples networks of friends
• how lonely people feel
The lowest risk of depression and questionable behaviours is found for those who have, at least, a degree of social involvement.
Research to date suggests social activities involve mental stimulation and/or physical activity which can provide additional benefit.
Social activity is believed to contribute to brain reserve. Interacting with other people involves many brain functions and can be good brain exercise. As with other mentally stimulating activity, this helps to build up a reserve of healthy brain cells and connections between them.
There are many different ways to stay socially connected. This page gives a few ideas, but there are many others to add to the list.
The local council is a great source of activities. They give you information on clubs, groups and courses that might help increase social engagement.
Ideas for being social:
Combine social, mental and physical activity with:
- Dancing its great social exercise.
- Team orienteering in pairs or groups, people have to move quickly and work out how to get to the next point
- Travel with family or friends and meet new people, do lots of walking
Some other ways to be social:
- Volunteer with a favourite charity or local community group
- Go walking with friends or family
- Check out what’s on in the local area and participate in activities
- Join a group such as a book club, walking group, church group or your local sporting club
- Visit a gallery or museum and go on a guided tour
- Have cards or games nights with friends
- Go to a movie, concert, theatre production or sports event with friends
- Take up dancing or singing lessons or enrol in a course
- Go out for meals or drinks with family or friends or invite them over to your place
- Talk to your pets when no-one else is around.
Research has shown that people who regularly stimulate and challenge their brain with complex mental activities are on average:
- more likely to have better cognitive function
- less likely to experience cognitive decline with ageing
- less likely to develop dementia'
This has been found for people who are more mentally active in their youth, at middle age and also old age.
Regularly using cognitive skills and exercising one's brain builds a reserve of healthy and efficient brain cells and connections.
Research consistently finds that people with limited intellectual capacity are more content and less likely to undesirable behaviours if they are actively engaged within meaningful ways - being encouraged to participate in developmental and social activities.
- higher levels of education
- more mentally demanding occupations
- participating in more intellectually stimulating leisure activities
Not everyone has the ability or opportunity to undertake advanced education or work in mentally challenging roles. Stimulating activities, such as table activities and games, computer games and garden games and activities, to the level of the person's capacity, improve their quality of life
Evidence suggests that keeping your brain active and challenged throughout life has the potential to reduce dementia risk and improve quality of life
So those with limited intellectual capacity, due to intellectual or multiple disability, or ABI, need to be actively encouraged to keep their brain active through mental activities that are reasonably complex, varied, new and challenging for them, and that they do them frequently.
Evidence rating for mental activity
Research evidence to date suggests that any activity that involves thinking and learning is beneficial for brain health. Evidence also suggests that greater benefit comes from more complex and challenging mental activities. The more brain activities done, the more frequently done, and the more complex the activity, the better the quality of life.
A variety of activities
Activities that challenge the brain, give enjoyment as well if they are balanced to the person's needs
Mentally stimulating activities can start at a basic level, and move to more challenging levels. It also helps include new learning in the routine, which is important for building brain reserve. People become involved in different types of mentally stimulating activities at different stages of life. No matter what age, brain activities improve quality of life. There are many, many activities that involve mental stimulation and challenge.
Some of these are:
• A hobby such as painting, carpentry, metal work, sewing, craft or collecting
• A short course such as woodwork, gardening, computers, cooking, mechanics or yoga
• Reading different styles of books, newspapers or magazines
• Writing poetry, essays or keeping a diary
• Doing jigsaw, crossword, number or word puzzles
• Playing board games or cards
• Learning to dance, play an instrument or speak a new language
• Going to the theatre, movies, museum, gallery or a concert
• Cooking a new recipe or building a model
• Joining a club or community group or volunteering
• Researching something you’re interested in on the Internet or at your local library.
A number of brain training programs are now available. There is evidence for some of these programs that they can improve the cognitive functions. There is evidence that some programs have potential to improve general brain function.
The Sharp Brains website
has independent information about the many brain training products available.
Next ...... find puzzles and games
to challenge your brain
This page lists some ideas about where you can go on the web for challenging brain teasers and activities. These can be a fun way to keep your brain active, but remember they are no guarantee against developing dementia and your brain needs a variety of activities to exercise its different parts.
Try our quizzes to see how much you know about Your Brain Matters and Your Amazing Brain, and test your Music Knowledge.
The Games for the Brain
website has many different types of games challenging different cognitive skills.
website has games, puzzles, jigsaws, brain teasers, riddles, optical illusions and more.
The Cognitive Fun
website helps you learn about and challenge your brain by trying out actual cognitive tests used in neuroscience.
The Neuroscience for Kids website has Brain Games
and Memory Experiments
that you can do online, that are fun for all ages, not just for kids.
The Pro-Profs Brain Games
website has puzzles, logic games, word games, brain teasers and more, and you can even create your own puzzle or game.
Brain function expert Dr Helena Popovic, from Sydney, says we are brought up to believe we have an unchangeable brain that is at the mercy of our genes.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," she says. "The human brain is continually altering its structure, cell number, circuitry and chemistry as a direct result of everything we do, experience, think and believe. This is neuroplasticity, and the implications of it are enormous. We have the ability to keep our brains sharp, effective and capable of learning new skills well into our 90s, if we protect our brains from damaging habits and give them ongoing stimulation and appropriate fuel."
Dr Helena Popovic provides her top brain-health tips under, Smooth sailing for your brain:
- Don't damage the boat: Stay away from drugs, smoking, stress, sleep deprivation, soft drinks and sedentary lifestyles.
- Fuel it with the finest: Our brains consume one-fifth of the nutrients and kilojoules we ingest.
- Keep the cargo light: Obesity is a major risk factor for dementia.
- Run the motor: Exercise induces the growth of new brain cells.
- Learn the ropes and keep on learning: Education and lifelong learning help protect from dementia and contribute to our reserve against mental decline as we age.
- Sail to new shores: Get out of the rut. Boredom and monotony are poisonous to our brains.
- Choose the destination: Be very clear about where you want to go in life and what you want to achieve. Speak your goals out loud to command the crew. Positive selftalk switches on brain activity.
- Charge the battery: Adequate sleep and relaxation, to pause the brain chatter, is vital for preservation of brain function.
- Use it or lose it: Don't just talk about doing things - actually do them. From studying to socialising to swimming laps, get out there and keep training your body and brain to learn new skills.
- Connect with others: Lifelong social interaction and meaningful connections with others are vital for a healthy brain.