Many people think that becoming forgetful and slowing down mentally is a fact of growing older. But it doesn’t have to be.
Here are some tips for how to stay sharp in old age. You can use these to help your aging parent maintain their brain health. You can also use them to keep your own mind healthy as you start to age.
As we age, all areas of our body experience change. For example, some common changes that could affect your brain as you age include:
Researchers think these age-related brain changes are behind the differences in brain functioning that many people notice as they age.
Everyone experiences lapses in memory from time to time. It’s not uncommon if you’re stressed out, feel ill, or sleep-deprived. However, significant memory loss isn’t a normal part of getting older.
If your parent is experiencing severe memory loss, encourage them to reach out to a doctor for a medical workup.
Here are some scientifically-backed tips for helping your parent stay cognitively healthy as they get older.
Whether it’s learning a new skill, reading a book, or pursuing a hobby, education keeps your parent mentally active. This mental exercise builds and preserves connections in the brain. As a result, seniors can stave off cognitive decline.
In addition, regular reading and writing can reduce seniors’ rate of memory decline by 32%. You can help your parent make reading a habit by:
How you nourish your body impacts your brain as you age. Following a Mediterranean diet can help your parent cut their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40%. The similar MIND diet can also be good for brain health.
These diets can help protect your parent’s brain by improving heart health, preventing high blood pressure, and providing essential vitamins and minerals.
If you’re looking to help your parent stay sharp in old age, encourage them to consume more of the following foods for brain health:
Social isolation can increase your parent’s risk of dementia by 50%. In contrast, having at least a few close friends can keep your parent’s mind active as they age.
Making new friends or spending time with the ones they have can be good for your parent’s brain and lower the risk of dementia. Your parent doesn’t even have to socialize in person. One study showed that older adults who learned to use Facebook scored higher on memory tests than seniors who didn’t.
Stress is a natural part of life, and a little stress can be good for you. Working your brain or body hard for a short period of time can actually help you stay sharp as you age.
The problem starts when stress becomes chronic. Chronic stress is toxic to your brain and can hurt your cognitive health.
Engaging in relaxing activities such as mediation helps strengthen the areas of your brain associated with focus and attention. It also improves your sleep, which is critical for storing and consolidating memories.
Research shows that both smoking and heavy alcohol use reduce your cognitive function. For the best brain health as you age, it’s best to quit smoking and only consume alcohol in moderation.
Having a healthy cardiovascular system means that blood flows better to all of your organs, including your brain. In turn, this is associated with improved cognitive function as you age.
To ensure your parent’s heart and brain health as they age, encourage them to follow their doctor’s recommendations for controlling:
This won’t just help your parent keep their mind sharp, but it will also help protect them from heart disease and stroke.
Getting regular exercise is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind young. Staying physically active helps to:
Your parent can engage in any type of activity that they find enjoyable. This includes walking, dancing, or yoga.
Whatever activity they choose, getting regular vigorous exercise can help your parent lower their risk of dementia.
Listening to or playing music improves memory function in adults. It’s also highly enjoyable for most people and an excellent way to reduce stress.
Help your parent to find their favorite music on YouTube or a streaming app. Check your local activities for group music lessons or performing groups that your parent might enjoy.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends that adults 65 and older should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night for good health. In contrast, being sleep-deprived can negatively affect your parent’s physical and mental health.
These negative effects of sleeplessness include:
Need some tips for a good night’s sleep? Encourage your parent to try:
Cultivating a sense of purpose in life is a great way to stay sharp in old age. In fact, having a goal or purpose in life is associated with a 30% reduction in dementia. Having a purpose keeps the mind engaged and enriches your parent’s life.
The actual goal doesn’t need to be saving the world. It just needs to be meaningful to the individual. This could include caring for grandchildren, a favorite hobby, a pet, or volunteering.
Volunteering is a popular activity for seniors as it strongly benefits both the person volunteering and the recipient. For example, 60% of Parentis Foundation volunteers reported that tutoring young children in reading also improved their own mental health.
Parentis Health is committed to helping you help your parent stay healthy in both mind and body. We offer services such as home caregivers, home health, and residential living to support your parent as they age.
Additionally, the Parentis Foundation offers training for older adults to become volunteer reading tutors for young children. This significantly improves the literacy skills of children at risk while simultaneously providing meaningful opportunities for seniors in Orange County.
Reach out to us today. We can help you and your parent make a plan for how to stay sharp in old age.