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In September we celebrate Healthy Aging Month which focuses our attention on the positive aspects of getting older and ensuring our later years are spent safe, happy, and healthy. In honor of this observance, let’s talk about one important aspect of aging – the mind.

We all know the importance of exercise. We learn about it in school. We read about it in magazines. We hear about it on the news. You may have even seen appeals for exercise on this blog.

Unfortunately, what you don’t hear much about is the importance of exercising your brain. Like any other muscle in the body, it needs to be used to stay fit and strong. Keeping your mind sharp as you age can take some conscious effort, but it can also be pretty fun!

Here are a few activities to help keep your brain up to speed as you age:

• Take a Class – It’s never too late to learn a new skill! See what classes might be available at local community colleges, museums, or arts and crafts stores. You can even try some free courses online with resources like Coursera.org or www.edX.org.

• Play Cards with Friends – Set up a weekly card game with your friends. Not only will playing cards (or even board games) exercise your brain, it’s a great way to keep in touch with people you might not see that often!

• Read – This may seem like a simple suggestion, but for those of us who aren’t already avid readers, it might be just the ticket! Find books that grab your attention, offer interesting perspectives, and that teach you something new. You could also start or join a book club to discuss and explore great works further.

• Be Creative – You don’t need to take a class to be creative! Grab some supplies and draw or paint or knit or take photos. Try picking up a musical instrument you haven’t played in years. Or have a family member or friend come over and teach you.

• Write – Write in a journal. Write letters. Write shopping lists. Make writing a part of your daily or weekly routine. Any time you put your pen down on paper, your brain is working.

• Do a Puzzle – Add a puzzle to times when you might just be watching television or lounging around. Grab a cheap jigsaw puzzle at a rummage sale or thrift store. Or do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper. Other games like sudoku or word searches can also be fun!

• Stay Organized – Keep up with planners, calendars, and address books. Write down important dates or events. Always put important items like your keys down in the same spot. This can help strengthen your memory. Having essential information written down can let your brain focus on more important memories like time spent with family.

•Meet New People – Exposing yourself to new environments and new people will keep your memory rich with experiences. Join a new gym or an exercise class. Get a part-time job or volunteer.

When considering your health this Healthy Aging Month, don’t forget about your brain. There are innumerable ways to keep your mind sharp. Why not start today?!