By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: My mother used to be smart as a whip, but she has really slowed down in the last year. Do you have any suggestions for how I can to help her regain some of her mental powers? Diana in Colorado, 49

ANSWER: Thanks for being so proactive, Diana. You can greatly increase your mother's overall quality of life by working on her mental fitness. I suggest trying to stimulate her mind by playing games that are familiar to her. Chess, checkers, crossword puzzles, dominoes, cards, anagrams, and board games like Monopoly usually work. Your mother can even play games like solitaire by herself. Other activities can become a social event. These include bingo, going to a local museum, or attending a community show or stamp and coin collecting event. This offers an opportunity to meet and get to know other people with similar interests, and that can stoke your mom's mental furnace.

It's important to draw on skills and interests that your mother acquired when she was younger. If she liked to knit in the past, it's great for her to take it up again. It's also helpful if she has to follow a specific set of directions to complete a project. Even learning a new skill like using a new computer can be very challenging and augment her mental acuity. The goal here is to engage your mother's thought processes. It's very helpful for an elderly person to exchange thoughts and opinions with someone else, and your mother may have been isolated in this regard recently.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.