Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Jr. was a rancher, cowboy, police commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Nobel laureate and President of the United States. In his spare time, he became the inspiration for one of the bestselling children’s toys of all times – the Teddy Bear.
Roosevelt lived a full life with a sharp mind. If you follow these seven tips, you will too.
1. Stay Active; Stay Sharp
Roosevelt believed in the benefits of vigorous exercise and exerting oneself. He skinny dipped in the Potomac River and trekked through Rock Creek Park with congressmen.
Learn lesson #1 from President #26: Make physical fitness a key part of your aging smart plan. Keeping your body tight will help keep your brain right. Studies show that exercise promotes blood flow which keeps your brain healthy and your mind sharp.
Don’t treat exercise as a chore or you won’t be able to maintain your regimen. Once you find something you like, build it into your regular routine. And of course, when you are on those long walks in your local park, make sure to “walk softly and carry a big stick.”
2. Read More
Roosevelt was a voracious reader and devoured many books at once. If you want to be a mentally sharp senior, read more. No matter what you read, you’re actively engaging your mind and warding off mental plaque.
Start by reading the SeniorHomes.com blog and move up to longer materials. I recommend the great biography of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris.
3. Memorize More
Roosevelt developed his skills by reading a book, end-to-end, usually two or three times over. Roosevelt also memorized faces, speeches and poems. Memorization builds new neural pathways and enhances the ability to retain critical information.
You don’t need Teddy’s strong memory to get started. Start by memorizing a short limerick or excerpt from famous speeches such as Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena passage. Begin with a couple lines a day, and before you know it entire passages will come to mind with ease.
4. Write More
President Roosevelt wrote prolifically during his life, authoring numerous books and editing the weekly publication, The Outlook.
Roosevelt wrote about issues that he was passionate about. From national parks to foreign diplomacy, he carried his message through the medium of the written word. In fact, personal letters to world leaders brokering peace negotiations during the Russo-Japanese war earned Roosevelt a Nobel Peace Prize.
For your part, writing can be cathartic. The act of physically writing in longhand form stimulates many cells in the reticular activating system (RAS) of the brain. Writing and shaping words with a pen hones your focus to the task at hand. Also, you retain information better when writing out words longhand as opposed to typing them.
What do you care about? Write about those first. Who do you care about? Write to them first!
5. Play More
Play is an important and underused way to train your brain.
President Roosevelt didn’t have the benefit of modern technology, but you do. Take advantage of 21st-century advances. Download brain training apps such as Luminosity. Try board games with your friends or do the Sunday crossword puzzle. It’s not boar hunting with “TR,” but it might just help save your brain.
6. Embrace Variety
Roosevelt mastered everything from big game hunting to literary criticism. My friend Andy Robin writes about living the “Tapas Life” — doing a bit of this and a bit of that, like the small plates of tasty food served all over Spain. That sort of life takes effort, but can be filling, fun and meaningful. Most important, a life filled with variety can keep you mentally active and engaged.
Start your day using your professional experience to help an organization in need. Then spend your afternoon with your friends before making a new tapas recipe for your neighbors.
Be like Teddy. Instead of harnessing all your energy into one sole activity, diversify your interests. Sample the things you like and do bits and pieces of them a bit more. This sort of life isn’t multi-tasking, it’s multi-enjoying. Variety stretches your brain and keeps you limber, sharp and smart as you head into the senior years.
7. Learn A Foreign Language
Studies show that people who are bilingual stave off the onset of dementia longer than their monolingual counterparts. Memorizing grammar and vocabulary actively improves your memory. You get to flex your mental muscles every time you recall how to formulate a sentence or remember how to conjugate a verb.
Roosevelt spoke French and German well, in addition to rudimentary Latin and Greek. You don’t have to be a fluent in a half-dozen languages to experience the benefits; just start with one new language and see where it takes you.
There you go! Following the tips above won’t get your face etched into the side of Mount Rushmore. But when you stay sharp as you age, you’ll have plenty of time to etch new memories into the minds of the ones you love.
Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. Shayne has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.