Ways to Enhance the Brain Health of Elderly

    With age, the body’s faculties decline and so does its cognitive function. Mental decline or Senility is a feature which is characteristic of old age. Seniors tend to become absent-minded, forgetful and even incoherent. All this leads to dementia and depression in the elderly.

    Only the people who live with elders diagnosed with dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders can understand what their loved ones go through on day to day basis. To ease this scenario many home healthcare providers are now offering nursing care services for elders where the experienced nurses attend and take care of the daily needs of the seniors.

    According to the WHO, nearly 20% of the adults above 60 suffer from some mental disorder. Of all the disabilities affecting seniors, mental and neurological illnesses constitute 7%. Nearly 17% of the elders have lived with these mental disabilities over the years. Of all the brain health issues affecting the elderly, dementia constitutes 5%, depression 7% and anxiety 4%.

    These statistics only emphasize the importance of enhancing the brain health of the elderly which can be done by implementing simple steps like these.

    Improving the Brain Health of the Elderly

    Elders can manage their brain health effectively by adopting simple measures like meditation, memory practice, exercising, pursuing a new hobby, gardening, volunteering, social interaction etc.

    Meditation is the foremost brain health practice recommended to seniors. It improves concentration and brain focus and alleviates stress or anxiety. Meditation stimulates areas pertaining to long-term and short-term memory, thereby increasing the overall recall and remembrance ability of the seniors.

    Ageing of the brain is accelerated by chronic stress. Meditation is the perfect remedy to stress as it soothes the mind causing the brain to relax. Meditation techniques like mindfulness slow down the brain shrinkage with age and improve the complete brain health of the elderly.

    Seniors can enhance their memory power and brain health by playing memory games or thinking exercises. Scrabble, Sudoku, Crosswords etc. are simple and effective brain games that improve memory power. Elders can also enhance memory by trying to do the math, drawing a map or listing items and recalling them. Such easy mental exercises stimulate the brain and reduce ageing.

    Elders can also pick up a new hobby or interest like learning music or dance or even a new language. Such hobbies require the use of the brain’s nerve centres and the repetitive steps or sounds stimulates the brain, keeping it active and healthy.

    Loneliness and isolation is another big reason for the decline in the brain health of elders as it causes depression and anxiety in them. Interacting socially with neighbours, family and friends can reduce stress due to loneliness in elders. Seniors can go for walks in the park with friends, join laughter clubs or indulge in social activities in their neighbourhood.

    An excellent way of improving social interaction for elders with a sense of purpose and service is through volunteering. Yes, volunteering can help elders to remain mentally and physically active and use their brain faculties effectively. Their contribution to society enhances the dopamine secretion, improving their brain health. With volunteering, seniors find satisfaction through their selfless service and this keeps their mind engaged and their mood in high spirits.

    Gardening is an outdoor activity that elders can pursue to keep their body fit and mind active. Gardening offers an easy form of exercise for even elders with mobility issues. It also offers an excellent opportunity to stay outdoors and absorb Vitamin D from the sunlight. In fact, this Vitamin D is known to improve memory in elders and prevents brain fog in seniors.

    Rearing a pet is also recommended for elders with brain health issues. The company of a pet will only decrease their depression as they feel loved and needed. This automatically improves their brain power as they feel committed to taking care of the animals. Walking with their pet, feeding them and grooming them all needs the use of brain function which improves the brain health for seniors.

    Elders might suffer from other ailments urinary incontinence, allergy or vertigo which might  consequently, slow down the brain. Care must be taken to see that these medicines are avoided and replaced with other drugs which do not affect the seniors’ mental health.

    A balanced diet and physical fitness through mild exercise are crucial for maintaining the brain health of elders. Elders can ward off Alzheimer’s or dementia by the right intake of vitamin E daily from nuts and seeds. Mild exercises like walking or cycling can help elders to exercise both their muscles and mind. Aerobics and Yoga increase the oxygen intake and improve brain health.

    Seniors must be provided with a comfortable environment that enables them to sleep well. Sleep deprivation can cause a lot of anxiety in elders.  Elders must also be regularly checked for insomnia and nocturia which impair their sleep pattern.

    Elders must be taught to occupy themselves both mentally and physically in their old age. This keeps most mental illnesses at bay. Seniors must be also educated to recognize their symptoms of anxiety or depression and they must be advised to seek expert medical help immediately in such situations.

    Maintaining brain health is critical for elders in their old age but this can be easily done by making the above lifestyle changes for elders to give dramatic results.

    Thilak is the in-house content writer of Healthabove60, the Preferred Geriatric Home Healthcare service provider in Chennai. He mostly writes about health and elderly wellbeing.

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