Getting older and wiser; Brainpower as we age

There are a lot of myths surrounding more mature brains, but what's the truth and how can you keep your brain active as you get older?

It's often thought that our brains weaken as we get older, making it more difficult to remember things and take on new information. But is this really true?

A study from Massachusetts General Hospital's Center for Human Genetic Research, in Boston describes how there are different elements of the brain that actually perform better as we age. Looking at a range of almost 50,000 people, the study raised the prospect that people in their 40s and 50s do a better job of translating emotional signals from others, while older people have more overall knowledge. Young adults, meanwhile, think faster and have more short-term memory.

A more recent study from Columbia University found that elderly people grow as many new brain cells as teenagers do. This is a breakthrough finding, contrasting with previous assumptions that adults brains are hard-wired and don't create new cells.

The research could help with the treatment and prevention of neurological conditions like Alzheimer's disease and should also encourage people to keep their brain active as they get older.

Here are some ways to keep your brain healthy as you age:

Healthy diet

Maintaining a healthy diet throughout your adult life can help keep your brain functioning at its best. From regular amounts of oily fish, to getting your five a day and drinking enough water, it's important that you're eating right if you want to keep your brain healthy. Ensuring you are getting the right balance of vitamins, minerals and good fats can also reduce your risk of having a stroke, which can have a massive impact on your brain.

Mental stimulation

In many ways, the brain acts like a muscle and it can help to think of it as one. If you didn't do physical exercise, your body's muscles would soon weaken and it's the same for your brainpower. Doing small but regular tasks to get you thinking can have a massive impact on your overall cognitive abilities. From completing the daily crossword to doing formal brain training on your smartphone, finding short tasks that encourage you to think a little more than normal will help your brain's health.

Physical Health

Physical health can have a big impact on mental health. Limited mobility can affect our mood, as well as prevent us from accessing enough stimulus for a healthy brain. Exercise, ranging from low impact activities to a more intense sport contributes to good overall health, including brain function.


Just like other muscles in other parts of the body, rest and sleep are important for a well-functioning brain. Sleep helps to maintain emotional symptoms that can develop into mental health problems, such as stress, anxiety and depression- sleep is a great form of self-care.

At Barchester, we help support older people to live independent lives, and taking care of the mental health of the residents in our care is just as important as taking care of their physical health.

To support healthy brain functions, many of our daily activities are curated to help people continue their passions, such as gardening, playing music, and our hospitality teams create nutritious meals that can be personalised for each individual to support good physical and mental health. To find out more about the activities taking place at your closest care home, click here.