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5 Things Older Drivers Can Teach Us about Driving Safely

5 Things Older Drivers Can Teach Us about Driving Safely

For years, people have worried about the effects of older drivers on the road. As people’s bodies ages and minds fade, some well-meaning individuals fret about whether seniors retain the mental capacity to drive safely and suddenly react to incidents on the road.

But while we may fret about seniors crashing their cars, we should never forget that teenagers and the young remain the group with the biggest chances of crashing their car. Rather than the young worrying about our senior population, perhaps it is the young who should attempt to learn something from how their elders drive. And while everyone drives differently, there are certain behaviors which older drivers do which others can seek to emulate.

Here are five such things which society as a whole can learn from older drivers on how to drive safely.

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1. Texting and Driving

You know not to do this. There are laws against not doing this. Nevertheless, young adults and teens remain the group most likely to text and drive at the same time.

Even if you are not texting, distracted driving as a whole is a dangerous habit which keeps your mind off the road. So many accidents occur precisely because someone’s mind lapses while they think about something else and do not realize they have driven into a dangerous situation until it is too late. Even if your hands are free, actions such as holding a conversation through speaker phones takes your mind off the road and increases the chances of an accident.

Older people are much less likely to text and drive at the young. Learn from them and understand that you can wait to respond to that text.

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2. Appropriate Driver Behavior

It is commonly observed that young people think that they are invincible and take risks which end up increasing the chances of an accident. Such examples of behavior include speeding and running red lights. The former is particularly noticeable because the elderly are fairly notorious for driving slower than average. This behavior exists due to their slower reaction times and decreased the ability to notice pedestrians.

But while many of us may scream and shake in rage at that woman driving 20 mph under the speed limit, we all could learn to slow down on the road. Most of the time, speeding excessively is only going to get you to arrive at your destination only a few minutes earlier. It is not worth the additional risk.

3. Knowing Where to Go

Once upon a time, people did not drive with GPS. They planned where to go while looking at these things called “maps.”

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There is no denying that technology has made things more convenient. But how many times have you been stuck in a situation where the GPS tells you to make a turn you did not expect, which causes you to try and cut across multiple lanes and do something crazy? This sort of behavior happens precisely because we have grown more accustomed towards relying on the GPS instead of trying to navigate ourselves.

Fortunately, technology can help you scout the area you are trying to go to, and Google Maps can show what streets are in the area. Take the time to prepare beforehand just like people did 50 years ago instead of just blindly depending on technology.

4. Sleeping

Not every lesson from the elderly has to be positive. Older people often suffer from increased sleeping problems, are tired more often, and just generally sleep less.

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Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is one of the primary causes of automobile accidents, and sleeping while tired is about as bad as sleeping while drunk. You lose alertness and the ability to react to sudden events while tired. This loss in alertness combined with the slower reactions of seniors can often pose a problem.

If you are extremely tired but have to go somewhere, try to find an alternative such as being driven by a friend. While there is a lot which we can seek to emulate from older drivers, we should also try to avoid their example of not sleeping enough.

5. Driving Experience

The best way to get better at driving is to be on the road. While older drivers often decrease their chances of an accident through slowing down and practicing good driver behavior, there is also the fact that they know the road better than a teenager. Driving over and over can help you do a better job merging into lanes, parallel parking, and knowing what to expect from your fellow drivers.

Always be aware, always prepare before it is time for you to go anywhere, and this will remove much of the risks which come with driving. And you can reduce that risk by looking at how our elders drive, emulating what they do right, and seeking to improve from their mistakes.

Featured photo credit: Boudewijn Berends via flic.kr

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Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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