Posted: October 1st, 2018
Age is a number that dictates a great deal of milestones in everyday life - graduation, marriage, retirement, and so on. The most discussed age demographic today is not the millennial generation, but baby boomers. More and more individuals are into their long sought-after retirement years or will be entering the retirement period soon.
As baby boomers have continued along their journey, they have accomplished a great deal, much of what is around today is in great part due to the baby boomers. However, as individuals age, there is great cause for concern. Life expectancy continues to rise, but not all individuals are living their latter years in ways they imagined.
Retirement savings, and pensions were designed in a way to allow individuals to live freely after their busy career years came to a halt. The basic idea is as follows, work for X amount of years, and you will have Y amount of years funded in your retirement, free to do anything of your choosing, at least that is what everyone believes it to be. Ultimately, individuals are not only outliving their savings, but they are faced with an even greater concern.
Dementia cases are on the rise; there are over 4.6 million new cases each year. The #1 risk factor being age. As an individual begins middle adulthood there begins the dawn of cognitive decline due to a decrease in synapse connectivity, hippocampal volume shrinkage, and other neuronal deficiencies that lead to overall impairment.
Dementia, characterized by a decline in memory, behaviors, language, problem solving, and other cognitive skills has the power to eliminate any and all independence an individual may have, as well as a family’s entire retirement savings. An umbrella term for many diseases, dementia includes the infamous Alzheimer's disease, which continues to baffle many. The exact number is unknown, but it is estimated that 60-80% of all those battling dementias, are indeed diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
So why does aging and outliving one's only source of income and support begin to be trumped by a condition that may cause some memory impairment, that is simply associated with "it's just a part of getting old". Well for starters, there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease; although current research methods may be trending in positive direction, there are still a number of unexplained phenomena. Lack of a cure, and the greatest risk factor for developing any form of dementia is being one's age should resonate with many. Those in the latter stages of any form of dementia have, in most cases, lost most, if not all of their independence. Not quite what retirement dreams looked like 10 years ago. As the years go by the risk of developing dementia continue to rise. Many individuals who believe the "it's just a part of getting old" adage, and show signs of forgetfulness, confusion, and at times changes in behavior may already be battling a form of dementia without a true diagnosis.
Let's be clear, a diagnosis of dementia, or more specifically, Alzheimer's disease is not the end. Although there is no cure, and the exact cause of dementia, in all its forms, is unknown, there are lifestyle factors that one should focus on. Education has been shown to be a great early life influence; those who are well educated throughout life have shown to be better protected. As the latter years come about one should continue to educate themselves in various forms, such as reading, writing and problem solving, even brain training on various sites throughout the web. One might even try learning to play a new musical instrument. Leisurely social engagement also creates favorable outcomes. Those who are actively involved in a gentleman's club, or ladies' luncheon, or simply get together with a group of friends to chat or play cards reduce their risk of cognitive impairment. Exercise and overall physical activity also have neuroprotective effects, in that exercise keeps the wiring, functioning, and overall activity up to par, with the potential to reverse some of the effects that may have already incurred.
At this point in time there is a lot to be answered about cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, however modifying lifestyle factors have the power to make a great impact!
If you or a loved one is suffering from Dementia or another condition associated with aging, and your interest in learning more or meeting for a LiveWell Southwest Florida Assessment, please contact us by filling out our short form, or call us directly at (239) 689-9605.
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Balbag, Allison."The Mind and Body Connection" Presentation Series Presented at Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California. Los Angeles, CA, Spring 2018.
Doidge, N. (2017). The brains way of healing: Remarkable discoveries and recoveries from the frontiers of neuroplasticity. Brunswick, Victoria: Scribe.
Nash, Paul. "Physiologic Changes that Affect Cognition". Presentation at Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California. Los Angeles, CA, September 2018.
Nash, Paul. "Memory, Attention and Supervisory Processes to Improve Cognition". Presentation at Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California. Los Angeles, CA, September 2018.