There are many great things about growing older. The wisdom and insights gained from experience, the security that comes from having made shrewd choices, and the respect earned by weathering a lifetime of hardships are all things that can contribute to making one’s later years the most enjoyable period of one’s life. However, there are also many things that people fear about aging. Perhaps the most common of these is the fear of losing mental capacity. At Village Park Senior Living, we strive to give our residents everything they need to live a well-balanced and worry-free life. Understanding how memory-affecting disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia work, and what you can do to minimize their effects, can go a long way towards alleviating your fears and anxieties.
Why Does Memory Loss Occur?
Our brains are able to store and retrieve information because the individual brain cells (or neurons) are all interconnected. Long-term memories are stored throughout the brain as groups of neurons that are primed to fire together in the same pattern that created the original experience. This essentially means that brain cells have to work together and communicate with each other for memory to work. However, estimates by neuroscientists have shown that by late middle-age the brain loses an average of 1 percent of its brain cells every year, and eventually memory loss can begin to set in. Scientists also theorize that the routine of daily work and regular activity gives the data that’s stored in the brain a meaningful structure to support it, and without that routine the brain has difficulty accessing that data. This is one of the reasons why staying active with regular classes and social activities is such an important part of healthy senior living. Finally, it is simply possible that the accumulation of additional information over many years can make each individual piece more difficult to locate and access. Regardless of the cause, it is estimated that 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 10 men, who live past the age of 55 will develop dementia in their lifetime, so finding a way to deal with those symptoms is of the utmost importance.
Can Memory Loss Be Prevented?
Fortunately, it is possible and relatively easy to improve memory through simple tasks that you can complete every day. The human brain has many more neurons than it actually needs, and our cognitive abilities are largely the result of connections between those neurons. So even though advancing age may mean a gradual loss of brain cells, challenging mental activity can stimulate your brain to form new connections, delaying or even preventing cognitive decline. In effect, an active and mentally stimulating lifestyle will encourage the brain to continually “re-wire” itself and form new connections that will replace those that have been lost. It is not enough to simply go through your daily routine, as this will not engage your brain in a meaningful way, but even simple activities like reading a book, playing board games, playing musical instruments, dancing, or doing crossword puzzles will often be enough to get new neural pathways forming. Village Park offers a variety of senior lifestyle options, including independent and assisted-living options that encourage active social engagement and memory care options specifically designed to optimize everyday life for residents living with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory challenges.
Not all seniors will be affected by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, but understanding more about the issues will help you protect yourself and those you love. Ultimately, we have found that living an active and mentally engaging lifestyle is often the best way to keep your mind sharp and your retirement years enjoyable. If you are interested in learning more about your senior living options, please contact Village Park Senior Living to schedule a tour of one of our communities or to discuss what options might be right for you. For more special interest stories and informative articles about topics of interest to seniors and our community, you can also check out our weekly blog or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get the latest news and updates.