Aging has numerous challenges like loneliness, loss of income, mobility, and cognitive decline. While loneliness can be remedied by engaging in community social events and a loss of income can be averted through financial planning for retirement, mobility and cognitive decline are a little more challenging.
Mobility issues, should they arise, can be mitigated through the use of ambulatory aids like walking sticks, rolling frames, mobility scooters, and manual or electric wheelchairs.
However, accidents can still happen and healthcare professionals suggest the use of a medical alert system like Alert1, which is available nationwide and provides 24-hour emergency protection for seniors. After a fall or in the event of a medical emergency, all someone with a medical alert device has to do to get immediate help is press a button.
There is also much that can be done to reduce or even prevent cognitive decline, provided occasional forgetfulness are not due to organic disorder, neurological illnesses, or brain injury.
With that in mind, here are 5 ways to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and the possibility of dementia:
- Maintain good health habits.
Here are some basic health habits to adopt:
- 1. Exercise moderately and stay physically active each day. Avoid sedentary activities all day.
- 2. Eat a healthy diet low in salt and sugar. Minimize or eliminate foods with GMOs and food additives. And reduce the intake of trans fatty acids and saturated fats.
- 3. Drink sufficient water throughout the day, and drink a glass of water before bed and upon waking up.
- 4. Avoid habits like smoking, marijuana, and alcohol.
- 5. Get medical help for conditions like high LDL cholesterol, hypothyroidism, mood disorders (depression or anxiety), high blood pressure, diabetes, or sleep apnea. Neglecting these health conditions can result in exacerbation, which can lead to cognitive decline.
- Stay mentally active.
There appears to be a correlation between a higher level of education and improved mental functioning in old age. According to psychologist Margie E. Lachman from Brandeis University, who has specialized in aging, ““Education seems to be an elixir that can bring us a healthy body and mind throughout adulthood and even a longer life.”
During their working lives, most people have to stay mentally active to do their jobs; however, after retirement, there is no more pressure to calculate numbers, organize information, communicate ideas, evaluate a course of action, make accurate decisions, or extrapolate on possible outcomes. In order to stimulate brain cells and the need to communicate, it’s important to create some kind of mental challenges like pursuing a hobby, building or making things, learning a language, or engaging in a new skill.
- Sharpen your senses.
While cognitive tasks stimulate brain activity, it can be a little more difficult to keep the senses alert. How do you get better at sight, hearing, and touch when you’re in the same environment and surrounded by the same stimulus? The answer is to learn or engage in something new in a stimulating environment. Listening to music, walking in nature, dining in different restaurants, learning to paint, or traveling to new places forces the senses to respond to unique, novel stimuli.
- Change your self-talk.
Many myths associated with aging can dampen a person’s enthusiasm to learn new subjects or try out new experiences. People of all ages experience moments of absent-mindedness and solecisms when communicating, but older people tend to associate forgetting as a sign of a serious decline in memory and make self-abnegating comments about their “senior moments.” Contrary to earlier beliefs that intelligence is fixed, neuroscience has discovered that the brain is always evolving when exposed to new information. Scans have shown neurons growing when somebody does something like read a book or listen to a lecture. This phenomenon is known as neuroplasticity. In fact, someone who loves to learn will build an increasingly dense neuronet each passing year. They develop more brain cells, and form a thick net of neurons that often communicate associated ideas with each other.
- Get organized.
Many frustrations associated with cognitive decline are actually a result of disorganization. If you can’t remember where you put down the car keys or your grandson’s birthday, it’s not due to a poor memory but due to your brain being preoccupied with other things.
Here are some ways to get organized to stay on top of things that you need to do or remember:
- 1. Keep a calendar.
- 2. Use a daily planner.
- 3. Create shopping lists.
- 4. Employ an address book.
- 5. Make use of the GPS on your smartphone when travelling.
- 6. Put important documents in folders.
- 7. Designate specific areas for commonly used items like keys, wallets or purses, and glasses.
Aging and Cognitive Decline
It’s commonly believed that cognitive abilities decline as a person gets older. The reason for this is rarely due to organic reasons, but because of increasing disinterest in learning new things and thinking deeply about things. There are many examples of brilliant thinkers who remained mentally alert into old age. Although Albert Einstein achieved his most significant scientific breakthroughs in 1905, when he completed his paper on Brownian motion and the special theory of relativity, he continued to ponder on complex theories like the unified field theory and quantum mechanics until his death in 1955.