The more we exercise our brains, the healthier they’ll be in old age. According to Robert S. Wilson, PhD, frequent mental activity throughout one’s life leads to greater mental clarity and memory in later years. Activities like reading, writing, playing chess, and interacting with neighbors and grandchildren can all have an impressive impact on general mental functioning.
More specifically, writing can contribute to stronger mental clarity, better memory retention, and improved quality of life. If you’ve ever considered writing a memoir, there are a few added benefits to telling your life’s story. Here are a few ways writing in old age can improve your life.
Writing about the things you’re grateful for can actually improve the quality of your sleep. You might think that’s because a more positive mindset could lead to happier dreams, but it actually has to do with our ability to fall asleep peacefully. A focus on gratitude and happiness reduces stress and creates a more peaceful and calm mindset when an individual drifts off to sleep. So, for the many seniors who spend hours tossing and turning, writing about gratitude for 10 minutes every evening might even be more effective than a sleeping pill.
Writing things down helps us remember them. It has to do with a mind-body connection where signals are sent from your hand to your brain. When we write by hand, our brains build motor memories of the concepts that are written down, so we’re more likely to retain what we write using a pen and paper.
By writing a memoir, an elderly person is actually improving their own retention of the events described. Not only does the process create a lasting legacy, it also reduces the rate of memory decline by 32% compared to people who don’t engage in frequent mental exercise.
Dealing with Emotional Stress
Expressive writing also helps us cope with feelings of depression and loneliness. Writing in a journal or diary allows us to better organize and understand our negative thoughts. Simply write your thoughts down as they enter your mind. If you’re thinking about a lost loved one or a new family member, write about that. If you’re thinking about what you had for lunch, that works, too. There is no set script for journaling.
For many writers, the process can feel meditative or cathartic. Elderly people who have recently lost loved ones can use writing as a tool to process emotions and continue moving forward in a healthy way. Believe it or not, writers actually process feelings faster than non-writers.
By using writing as both a mindfulness exercise and a mental stimulator, older people can give themselves a better sense of clearheadedness. Over time and without practicing these mental exercises, we see reduced mental functioning and a faster decline in memory. Older people who write on a consistent basis are more lucid and in-tune with their surroundings.
The impact of COVID-19 on older generations has been devastating. Elderly people are feeling higher overall rates of loneliness and depression due to the isolation, and it’s expected to have a massive effect on mental health. Luckily, the ability to write only takes a pen and paper.
If you’re interested in making writing a larger part of your life or the life of your loved one, join Opyrus for free.