Brain Health and Aging: How to Keep Your Senses Sharp Later in Life

“The brain is a very healthy and resilient organ. That’s one of the reasons… to be optimistic and positive to take care of it.

Friday, May 26, 2023 4:33 p.m.

This image shows a man listening to music through headphones.


With aging comes many trials and tribulations, including the decline of the senses: sight, hearing, and even smell, taste, and touch.

Fortunately, exercising the brain strengthens these senses, just as exercising the muscles strengthens the rest of the body.

“The brain is a very healthy and resilient organ. That’s one of the reasons we really need to be optimistic and positive about caring for it,” said Patricia S. Daniels, a National Geographic contributing author who explored how brain health influences the senses for the publication’s Mind Body Wonder series.

Physical exercise – like walking, swimming and tai chi – stimulates our most important organ. Playing games, taking classes, and other mental exercises can also prevent cognitive decline.

“Particularly if you’re learning a new skill,” Daniels said. “It’s not something you’ve done a million times – something that takes a bit of work to master. These things really strengthen your neural connections.”

Even social contact has a surprisingly strong effect.

“It’s a reason not to be isolated and not to be sitting at home in the corner with the screen,” Daniels said. “You really need to get a variety of stimulation throughout the day. Use your eyes, use your ears.”

MORE: Small bursts of daily exercise can reduce risk of death by 40%, study finds

Daniels pointed out that it’s never too late for your brain — it will build those new nerve connections until the day you die.

“If you’ve done nothing but sit in a chair in some corner of your life, you can always pick up and get moving,” she said.

And stay optimistic.

“They actually find that optimistic people live longer than pessimistic people, so you always have to be hopeful,” Daniels said.

Some mental skills, like vocabulary, get sharper with age. Learn more at

ABC OTV and National Geographic will explore health and wellness through four lenses: longevity, women’s health, brain health, and food and nutrition. Using the latest scientific research and insights from experts in the medical field, we’ll answer questions about what’s essential for the future of your health.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of National Geographic Partners and this ABC station.

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