Just like we need to exert our muscles to build physical strength, we also must put our minds to work to keep them in the best condition possible.

There are lots of things we can do to make our journey to cognitive fitness fun. For seniors, scrapbooking is a great way to exercise their recall skills and take them for a virtual jog down memory lane.

Constructing a scrapbook allows our older loved ones to literally hold their own history in their hands, process it, and share it with their family. It’s a memory preservation technique that is often used by professionals to both combat dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and help seniors connect with their kids and grandkids at the same time.

Scrapbooking is affordable, easy and can be pursued alone or with a group. Whether your senior loved one has been diagnosed with dementia or they’re just looking for something fun and constructive to do with their time, scrapbooking should help make their brain sharper and healthier.

Five benefits of scrapbooking for brain health

  • Improves Mental Acuity – Remembering and documenting your past is an excellent way to build and reorganize synaptic connections in the brain, a process known as neuroplasticity, which is how our minds recover from injury. Reviewing old photographs, letters and newspaper clippings is not only a great way to connect with Mom and Dad, but also brings experiences back to the front of their minds, sharpening their focus and their mental organization.
  • Reduces Stress – Having a project to concentrate on and look forward to can occupy our minds with positive thoughts instead of concentrating on troubles and worries. That’s important because, according to research, stress is a major factor in the deterioration of cognitive abilities. When the hormone cortisol is released as a response to stress, it often affects sleep patterns, dietary habits, and increases the likelihood of cognitive issues like dementia. Seniors often find scrapbooking to be relaxing and stress-reducing while giving them something tangible that they can be proud of.
  • Socialization – Hobbies are fun to share with loved ones and friends, and scrapbooking is no exception. A helpful way to get started would be to talk about their plans with someone experienced in creating scrapbooks (and a good excuse to make a new friend!). In addition, going through boxes of memories can serve as a conversation starter — after all, it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words! So, imagine how many hours of reminiscing on fond memories and milestones a shoebox full of decades worth of snapshots could inspire.
  • Helps combat depression and loneliness – In addition to the time spent perusing photos with their kids and grandkids or comparing notes with other scrapbookers, creating a scrapbook can stimulate social skills in other ways. In short, organizing their personal history is a creative way for seniors to count their blessings and be reminded of all the wonderful and important experiences that have happened in their lives. Reminding ourselves of the friends we’ve made and the fun we have had in our lives is a perfect way to boost our spirits!
  • Sharpens fine motor skills – While at first glance scrapbooking doesn’t seem to provide much opportunity for exercise or physicality, the opportunities are there. Specifically, operating scissors, working with tape and glue dispensers, turning pages and sorting through photos are all activities that keep fingers flexing. Seniors with arthritis in their hands and fingers often find exercising helps reduce the pain and increase flexibility. Without extracurricular activities to keep us busy, we often forget to perform coordination exercises with our fingers to maintain limberness and healthy condition of our hand muscles.

Connecting with your loved one

Keeping seniors mentally engaged with stimulating activities is crucial in boosting their mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. So, why not give scrapbooking a try? You’re sure to gain a new way of connecting with, and learning about, your loved one along the way.

Learn more about hobbies for seniors and other ways to stay creative on Bethesda’s blog.