Brain Games for Senior Care: What is Neurobics?

Brain Games for Senior Care: What is Neurobics?

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Articles Coronavirus: Covid-19

Your morning exercise program helps residents gain strength and weekly yoga classes help them increase their range of motion. But do you have a brain exercise program in place? Brain exercises are just as important as physical exercise for our residents.  Learn a bit more about neurobics and why these interventions are key to keeping brains fit!
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Your morning exercise program helps residents gain strength and weekly yoga classes help them increase their range of motion. But do you have a brain exercise program in place?

Brain exercises are just as important as physical exercise for our residents. Learn a bit more about neurobics and why these interventions are key to keeping brains fit!

What Are Neurobic Brain Exercises?

You have heard of aerobic exercises, but did you know there was an entirely different category of brain exercises? The term neurobics is used to describe the the science behind brain exercise. Neurobic brain exercises are meant to decrease memory loss and increase the ease of taking in (and then using) new information. In order to work its very best, the brain needs to practice and get better in a variety of skills.

Consider exercise and the physical body. You run around the block to give your heart the chance to practice getting stronger. You do pushups to increase your upper body strength. You do yoga to improve range of motion. Each of these exercises gives specific body parts the chance to practice and improve. Similarly, neurobic exercises give the different parts of your brain the chance to practice and improve as well.

How It’s Different Than Trivia

Chances are, you are already incorporating some brain games in your monthly calendar. In most communities, trivia groups are quite popular and well attended! However, if you want to incorporate more neurobic exercises for your residents to try, you can’t rely solely on trivia. Neurobic exercises are aimed at strengthening the brain, giving it the chance to make new connections and create new pathways. This steers beyond recalling trivia facts.

Breaking Routine

For example, neurobic exercises encourage disruption of routine. When we do something out of routine, our brain can check out of the process and not work as hard. Have you ever driven to work and couldn’t necessarily remember how you got there? That’s a great example of your brain checking out, thanks to a routine. When you break a routine, your brain has to pay attention and work. 

You can break routine with your residents by:

  • Planning a painting class where everyone paints with their non-dominant hand
  • Reversing the order of your usual morning announcements
  • Taking the “long way” back to their room from the activity space
  • Going to a new diner for your regular monthly outing

New Learning

Learning new things is crucial to overall brain health, so it is no surprise that new learning is a neurobic brain activity. When the brain takes in new information, it gets practice in making new connections to interpret and retain that information.

You can encourage new learning with your residents by:

  • Scheduling monthly lectures from local professionals about new topics
  • Ordering new magazines for your community, besides your usual stand-bys
  • Designating a New Hobby of the Month to learn together
  • Coordinating a new language class (even if you are just learning a few words, it makes a big difference!)
  • Offering music classes or learning an instrument together

Sensory Stimulation

As Activity Professionals, we typically associate sensory stimulation as an intervention for residents living with dementia. However, when your brain must interpret more than one sense at a time during an activity, it creates new neural pathways and connections.

You can incorporate sensory stimulation into your “regular” activities by:

  • Using an essential oil diffuser during your exercise class
  • Playing music during your creative arts group
  • Reading aloud to your residents during a meal or snack

Work All of the Brain

Your brain has different parts, all made to do different functions. Unfortunately, even the most experienced Activity Professionals can forget to plan activities that use all parts of the brain. For example, the parietal lobe of the brain is responsible for spatial perception while the temporal lobe of the brain is responsible for organization. When you pack the trunk of your car before a big trip, you must use both of these lobes in order to fit every suitcase in before you close the door.

You can encourage residents to use all parts of their brain by:

  • Planning activities that use math skills
  • Counting and separating money (bills and coins)
  • Leading exercises that cross the midline of the body (right hand touches left shoulder, etc.)
  • Tetris-like puzzles that encourage spatial work
  • Planning activities that encourage problem-solving (work on real-world word problems as well as answering advice columns from the local newspaper)

Your residents already love their trivia groups, finish the lyric activities, and other popular brain games. However, you can make your brain game even stronger by incorporating a few neurobic based activities each week in your community. Your residents will enjoy the challenge and you will take pride in knowing you are offering science-based interventions that will increase their brain activity.

How do you incorporate neurobic activity interventions into your week already? Let’s share some ideas with one another!

21 Neurobic Exercises
13 Fun Brain Activities for Seniors

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Gwyneth 19th Jun 2020 Volunteer
Re Neurobics?
I have an exercise which causes laughter and amazement - none of us knows why it happens, perhaps someone can explain it if it happens to them. Here is the exercise:

Sit down, turn your right ankle round and round to the right and at the same time make a figure 6 in the air. I won't spoil it by telling you what happens when trying it on the clients in our day care centre, elderly, and on famliy and friends. Thank you Gwyneth
Pam 12th Jun 2020 Activity Director
I like this about Neurobics. Thank You.
Talita 15th Jun 2020
Thanks for your feedback Pam!
Shantel 11th Jun 2020 Activity Coordinator
So many great "out of the ordinary" ideas here! I think my group will love some of these.
Talita 15th Jun 2020
Thanks so much for your feedback Shantel!
Susan 16th Aug 2019 Activity Director
Thank you Jane for that suggestion
It is a really good idea and can be made easy or hard depending on the group you are doing it with
Jane 15th Aug 2019 Activity Director
Here's a popular seated Neurobics I do which I call Tap-Claps. Everyone is facing me so they can see the rhythm I tap out with my hands on my lap / clap. Eg. Tap, tap, clap; tap, tap, clap. Residents imitate what I'm doing. Repeat a few times, then change it up. Eg. Tap,tap,tap,tap,clap,clap. I speak out what we're doing as we're doing it.
Susan 13th Aug 2019 Activity Director
I am all for Neurobics
May have to adapt and modify them to meet the needs of the group you are working with
Haley 11th Aug 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Haley has submitted a new article: Brain Games For Senior Care: What Is Neurobics?
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