As we get older, our brains change. Many of us struggle to remember names of actors or authors we could once pull up in a second. Sometimes we get confused about what year events happened, or how old our adult children are now. The perfect word that used to come to mind so easily takes minutes or days to swim up out of the depths of our minds. The keys never seem to be where we thought we left them.
It’s difficult to know how much of this is due to the normal aging process and what are the signs of something more serious. Many fear that common difficulties are signals of incipient Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, while others dismiss serious mental impairment as nothing more than getting older. With so little known about the senior brain and the mechanisms of dementia, many older adults are left worried, depressed, or confused as to what is happening to them and what to expect in their future.
Dr. Haroutunian recommends an annual drug audit for older adults, especially those taking multiple medications prescribed by different doctors, in which they take all their medications to one of their doctors to do a medical reconciliation. This process helps identify any potential interactions and possible multiplication of effects. While not all memory issues are due to drug side effects, Dr. Haroutunian maintains that many problems could be eliminated by more careful monitoring and more judicious use of physical therapy, diet adjustment, and exercise rather than drugs to solve common problems.
The book also takes a hard look at how older adults can become addicted to pain killers, or may be self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
We generally think of the phrase “use it or lose it” with reference to muscle strength, spelling ability, sports skills, or professional knowledge, but new research is showing a cross-linkage between exercise and memory. Researchers are discovering that if you don’t use your muscles, you’ll not only lose strength but you are also impairing your memory capacity at the same time.
Scientists at Kings College London studied 324 female twins over the course of ten years and found that those who had the strongest legs at the start of the study had better mental skills a decade later than their less fit siblings. Indeed, according to lead researcher Claire Steves, leg power had a stronger correlation with thinking, learning and memory skills than any other lifestyle factor.
Another recent study that followed men and women aged 60 to 80 over the course of a year found that a short walk three times a week was correlated with size increases in the regions of the brain linked to planning and memory.
While researchers haven’t determined all of the mechanisms by which exercise impacts mental health there are several theories that help explain the correlation. Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with learning and memory. Other studies have found that when you use your muscles, they release hormones that can encourage nerve cells to grow, strengthening connections within the brain. Another theory has been that regularly increasing the flow of oxygen rich blood through physical activity helps prevent the build-up of the proteins which cause Alzheimer’s.
Our Community Crier social software helps residents of retirement communities, and independent and assisted living communities stay fit by connecting them to opportunities to get active where they live, whether it’s an aerobics class, the Saturday afternoon swing dance or a walking group in their community. With seamless event registration, reminders, and the ability to see who else is coming and to invite friends, we remove many of the barriers to participation that keep seniors at home.
We all need friends. They enrich our lives, participating in our interests and introducing us to new ones, sharing our joys and sorrows, standing by us in good times and hard ones, offering a sympathetic ear, a helping hand or a congratulatory hug when most needed.
Research has shown that seniors are happier and healthier when they have a robust social life, including family relationships, a close confidant or two, and a circle of friends they like to do things with. A strong social network not only offers health benefits in areas that have an obvious connection to social ties such as depression or blood pressure levels, but also in a whole array of ailments and disabilities from Alzheimer’s to cardiovascular health, from arthritis to osteoporosis to cancer. Indeed, research out of Australia has demonstrated that strong friendships are the most important factor in increased lifespan, more so even than close family relationships.
Unfortunately, maintaining an active social life can be challenging for many seniors. Retirement and relocation often disrupt previous social ties. Decreased mobility can impede social activities. And as we age our social circle decreases through bereavement.
Community Crier Social Software helps seniors in independent and assisted living communities stay connected and find activities to share with their friends improving quality of life, health and happiness. Email Doug@crieronline.com and we’ll be glad to show you how!
Welcome to The Community Crier Blog. This is the place you can come to find information about our products and upgrades to them. We will also be posting on issues of importance to our users — residents of retirement communities and their loved ones, as well as staff. We look forward to getting to know you!