Parkinson’s disease is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder (after Alzheimer’s disease), affecting an estimated one percent of the population over the age of 60. With upwards of one million Americans living with Parkinson’s, it’s become a critical area of research and study and a particularly relevant topic for seniors. Many living with the disease or concerned about a future diagnosis wonder about whether it’s possible to minimize symptoms and/or progression through lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise.
As we age, changes are happening in many different areas of our bodies, and the brain is no exception. Research tells us that certain parts of the brain shrink, particularly those critical to learning and other complex mental activities. Inflammation may increase in response to injury or disease, and communication between neurons in certain areas of the brain may not be as effective. These types of changes result in potential impacts on cognitive function, even for healthy seniors.
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As people age, the relationships they forge and maintain with friends become more important than ever. Having people to connect with socially and personally isn’t just fun; it’s actually fundamental to promoting a healthy lifestyle throughout the aging process. And while certain transitions and circumstances at this stage of life can make creating and sustaining active friendships more challenging, there’s no denying that these special bonds are instrumental for seniors.
At least 14 million Americans aged 65 and older live with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes, according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ranked as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, this disorder involves difficulty processing sugars from food, which can lead to dangerous levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes is particularly concerning for the senior population, who are at increased risk for specific complications.
Guilt, by any measure, is one of the most difficult feelings senior caregivers face when transitioning a loved one from home to a care facility. Family members who find themselves up against this decision do not typically go into it lightly, often laboring over the question of what’s best for the senior in their life. Many times, the move is dictated by unforeseen circumstances or newly emerged medical conditions that make it impractical to care for the loved one at home. Whatever the case, both the decision and the logistics of placement can leave a caregiver riddled with an overwhelming sense of guilt.
According to The State of Mental Health and Aging in America, an estimated 20% of people aged 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders like depression, which is the most prevalent mental health problem among older adults. Depression can result in personal distress and suffering, as well as impairments in physical, mental, and social functioning.
If you read our last blog article, The Secret to Health & Longevity That’s Too Important to Miss , you are familiar with the concept of “The Village Effect.” This metaphor for how human connection significantly impacts our minds and bodies points to the powerful link between socialization and lifespan. It’s an incredible concept supported by studies in social neuroscience, and it makes the case for just how important human connection is in the life of a senior.
It could be argued that no widespread experience has shed greater light on the universal need for face-to-face contact and personal connection than the global pandemic. Amidst this seismic threat to public health, people around the world have been rattled by overwhelming fear, stress and social isolation. For many, this reality has been accompanied by an unmistakable appreciation and longing for the kind of interaction that used to mark our everyday lives before the onset of COVID.
There are simply some factors impacting Alzheimer’s and its severity that are completely out of our control, including those like age and genetics. There are others, however, over which we have a great deal of influence, and one of the most prominent is nutrition. Advances in science and research have suggested that a person’s diet can have a significant impact on their ability to think and remember as they age.
Stress doesn’t discriminate based on generation, and no matter what’s going on in a senior’s life, there’s potential for them to suffer from the physical and emotional effects of stress. Circumstances like illness, loss of a loved one, loss of independence, a strained relationship, a move or other difficult changes to their daily life could be major contributors to stress. Learning how to understand and identify that stress is critical to working through it or supporting the senior in your life as they experience it.
While the pandemic wages on and we edge closer to one full year of the often overwhelming threat of COVID-19, some things remain steady as ever—like the clockwork transition from one season to the next. As the onset of blustery, cold weather kicks into high gear, many seniors and their loved ones are challenged to maintain a strong focus on safety and social distancing, all without succumbing to the potentially harmful effects of social isolation, cabin fever and boredom.