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10 Common Misconceptions About Aging

July 15, 2024

Many people make assumptions about aging, what it is like to grow “old,” and how older age will affect them. But as we get older, it is important to understand the positive aspects of aging as well as its challenges. Research has shown that most individuals can help preserve their health and mobility as they age by adopting or continuing healthy habits and lifestyle choices. Read on to learn about 10 common misconceptions related to aging and older adults.

1. Are depression and loneliness normal in older adults?

Depression is not a normal part of aging. However, as people age, some may find themselves feeling isolated and alone. This can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness. Persistent feelings of depression and loneliness can lead to a decline in physical and mental functioning. These feelings are not normal and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Growing older can have many emotional benefits, such as long-lasting relationships with friends and family and a lifetime of memories to share with loved ones. In fact, some studies show that older adults are less likely to experience depression than young adults. However, it’s important to know that older adults with depression may have less obvious symptoms or be less likely to discuss their feelings. Depression is a common and potentially serious mood disorder, but there are treatments that are effective for most people.

Learn more about depression and older adults and get tips for staying connected.

Get Immediate Help

If you are thinking about harming yourself, tell someone immediately who can help.

  • Do not isolate yourself.
  • Call 988 or go directly to a hospital emergency room.
  • Call your doctor or ask a friend or family member to help you.

Call or text the 24-hour 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988 or 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). For TTY users, use your preferred relay service or dial 711, then 988.

2. Do people need less sleep as they get older?

Older adults need the same amount of sleep as other adults: seven to nine hours each night. However, the quality and quantity of sleep can decline with age. Older adults may find themselves having a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. Getting enough sleep can help most people stay healthy and alert. Adequate sleep can also help reduce the risk of falls, improve overall mental well-being, and have many other benefits.

Learn more about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.

3. Can older adults still learn new things?

Yes! Older adults still have the ability to learn something new, create new memories, and improve their performance in a variety of skills. While aging does often come with changes in thinking, many cognitive changes are positive, such as having more knowledge and insight from a lifetime of experiences.

Trying and learning new skills may even improve cognitive abilities. For example, one study found that older adults who learned quilting or digital photography had improved memory. Seeking out new social connections with others and engaging in social activities, such as a dance class or book club, can keep your brain active and may also boost your cognitive health.

Learn more about cognitive health and older adults.

4. Is it inevitable that older people will develop dementia?

No, dementia is not a normal part of aging. Although the risk of dementia increases as people grow older, it is not inevitable, and many people live into their 90s and beyond without the significant declines in thinking and behavior that characterize dementia. About one-third of people over age 85 develop some form of dementia, meaning that about two-thirds do not. Occasionally forgetting an appointment or losing your keys are typical signs of mild forgetfulness, which is a common part of normal aging. Nevertheless, talk with a doctor if you have concerns about your memory and thinking, or notice changes in your behavior and personality. These problems can have a range of different causes, some of which are treatable or reversible. Finding the cause is important for determining best next steps.

Learn more about what’s normal forgetfulness and what’s not.

5. Should older adults avoid exercise and physical activity so they don’t get injured?

Exercise and physical activity can be good for a person’s health at any age! As people age, they may think exercise could do more harm than good, especially if they have a chronic condition. However, studies show that most people have a lot more to gain by being active — and a lot to lose by sitting too much. Often, being sedentary or inactive is more to blame than age when older adults lose the ability to do things on their own.

Almost anyone, at any age and with most health conditions, can participate in some type of exercise or physical activity. In fact, exercise and physical activity may help manage some chronic conditions. Staying active can be great for a person’s mental and physical health. Tai Chi and similar mind-body movement practices have been shown to improve balance and stability in older adults, which can help maintain independence and prevent falls. Resistance training, such as using exercise bands, is also an effective way to build muscle and reduce the risk of falling.

Learn more about how exercise and physical activity can improve your health.

6. If a family member has Alzheimer’s disease, will I develop it, too?

A person’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease may be higher if they have a family history of dementia because some genetic variants are known to increase risk. However, having a parent or other close family member with Alzheimer’s does not necessarily mean that a person will develop the disease. Learn about your own unique family health history and talk with your doctor about any concerns.

In most cases, a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s is influenced by a combination of factors, including the effects of multiple genes. Environmental, lifestyle, and health factors — such as hypertension, exercise, diet, exposure to pollutants, and smoking — can also affect a person’s risk. While inherited genes are beyond control, people can take steps to stay healthy as they age, such as getting regular exercise, managing high blood pressure, and not smoking.

Learn more about Alzheimer’s genetics and what we know about preventing Alzheimer’s.

7. Now that I’m older, will I have to give up driving?

Not necessarily. Physical and cognitive changes can occur with age that may affect a person’s ability to drive. These may include slower reactions, diminished vision or hearing, and reduced strength or mobility. However, not all people experience these changes and may still be safe behind the wheel in their later years. As the U.S. population ages, the number of licensed older adults on the road will continue to increase. In 2020, there were 48 million licensed drivers over the age of 65, a 68% increase from 2000. The question of when it is time to limit or stop driving should not be about age; rather, it should be about one’s ability to drive safely. This article can help determine if you or a loved one needs to limit or stop driving. Talk with your doctor about any health and driving concerns.

Learn more about driving safety and older adults.

8. Is osteoporosis only a problem for women?

No, although osteoporosis — a condition that makes bones more fragile and prone to breaking — is more common in women, this disease also affects and could be underdiagnosed in men. While men may not be as likely to have osteoporosis because they start with higher bone density than women, one in five men over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture. By age 65 or 70, men and women lose bone mass at the same rate.

Many of the factors that put men at risk are the same as those for women, including family history, insufficient calcium or vitamin D, and too little weight-bearing exercise. Low levels of testosterone, too much alcohol, taking certain drugs, and smoking are other risk factors.

Learn more about osteoporosis and how to maintain bone health as you age.

9. Am I “too old” to quit smoking?

No matter how old you are or how long you have been smoking, quitting at any time improves your health. Benefits to quitting may include fewer illnesses such as colds and the flu, breathing more easily, and having more energy.

Some of the benefits of quitting are almost immediate. Within a few hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood begins to decline and, in a few weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases. Over time, quitting can also lower heart rate and blood pressure. Additionally, quitting smoking lowers the risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, and lung disease. Quitting will also reduce risks related to secondhand smoke exposure for other family members or caregivers in the home. It is never too late to reap the benefits of quitting smoking and set a healthy example for your family and friends.

Learn more about how to quit smoking and where to find help.

10. If my blood pressure goes down, can I stop taking my medication?

High blood pressure is a very common problem in older adults — especially those in their 80s and 90s — and can lead to serious health problems if not treated properly. If you take blood pressure medicine and your blood pressure goes down, it means your medicine is working. However, it is very important to continue treatment long-term. If you stop taking your medicine, your blood pressure could rise again, increasing the risk for health problems such as stroke and kidney disease. Make sure to have your blood pressure checked regularly and work with your doctor to help keep it under control.

Learn more about high blood pressure and how to help control it.

To learn more, please visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/healthy-aging/10-common-misconceptions-about-aging.

Hot Weather Safety for Older Adults

July 8, 2024

Too much heat is not safe for anyone. It is even riskier if you are older or have health problems. It is important to be cautious and get relief quickly when you are overheated. Otherwise, you might start to feel sick or risk a heat-related illness that could cause serious health issues.

Why can extreme weather be even more dangerous for older adults than for younger people? Hotter days can cause difficulty in the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. This can be challenging for older adults who typically do not adjust as well as others to sudden temperature changes. Additionally, older adults are more likely to have chronic medical conditions that affect the body’s response to temperature, and to take prescription medicines that alter the body’s ability to control temperature or sweat.

Heat-related illnesses

Being overheated for too long or being exposed without protection to the sun can cause many health problems. Heat-related illnesses include the following:

  • Heat syncope is a sudden dizziness that can happen when you are active in hot weather. If you take a heart medication called a beta blocker or are not acclimated to hot weather, you are even more likely to feel faint. Rest in a cool place, put your legs up, and drink water to make the dizzy feeling go away.
  • Heat cramps are the painful tightening or spasms of muscles in your stomach, arms, or legs. Cramps can result from hard work or intense exercise. Though your body temperature and pulse usually stay normal during heat cramps, your skin may feel moist and cool. Stop the physical activity you’re doing and rest in the shade or in a cool building. Drink plenty of fluids, such as water and sports drinks containing electrolytes. Do not consume alcohol or caffeinated beverages.
  • Heat edema is a swelling in your ankles and feet when you get hot. Put your legs up to help reduce swelling. If that doesn’t work fairly quickly, check with your doctor.
  • Heat rash is a skin irritation from heavy sweating. It causes red clusters of small blisters that look similar to pimples on the skin. Your skin may feel itchy or you may feel “prickly” tingling pain. Keep the infected area dry, use powder to sooth the rash, and stay in cool areas.
  • Heat exhaustion is a warning that your body can no longer keep itself cool. You might feel thirsty, dizzy, weak, uncoordinated, and nauseated. You may sweat a lot. Your body temperature may stay normal, but your skin may feel cold and clammy. Some people with heat exhaustion have a rapid pulse. Rest in a cool place and get plenty of fluids. If you don’t feel better soon, get medical care. Be cautious because heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.
  • Heat stroke is a medical emergency in which the body’s temperature rises above 104°F. Signs of heat stroke are fainting; confusion or acting strangely; not sweating even when it’s hot; dry, flushed skin; strong, rapid pulse; or a slow, weak pulse. When a person has any of these symptoms, they should seek medical help right away and immediately move to a cooler place, such as under shade or indoors. They should also take action to lower their body temperature with cool clothes, a cool bath or shower, and fans.
  • Sun exposure, also known as sunburn, is a sign of skin damage due to extreme or long exposure. Your skin may appear red and tender, develop blisters, start to peel, and be warm to the touch. Severe reactions may cause fever, chills, nausea, or rash. Prevent sunburn by wearing protective clothing that covers your skin and staying out of direct sunlight. Using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher can also help prevent sunburns, but be sure to reapply often. If you are sunburned, wear lightweight clothing, take cool showers, moisturize affected areas, and stay out of the sun so your skin can heal.

If you are concerned about any of these heat-related illnesses, talk with your doctor.

Check the weather

If the temperature is rising, you may be at increased risk for a heat-related illness. Play it safe by planning ahead for hot days. Visit www.weather.gov, tune in to local radio or TV stations, or check the weather app on your smart phone regularly for forecasts. In addition to the thermometer, pay attention to the heat index, which considers both air temperature and humidity levels, to determine what the temperature actually feels like.

What raises the risk of heat-related illnesses for older adults?

Older adults are at higher risk for heat-related illnesses and death. Factors that put older adults at greater risk may include:

  • Health problems such as cardiovascular, lung, or kidney disease
  • Changes in skin caused by normal aging
  • Any illness that causes weakness or results in a fever
  • Taking drugs such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and some heart and high blood pressure medicines that may make it harder for the body to cool itself
  • Being on several prescription drugs at the same time
  • Having obesity, overweight, or underweight
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Living in places without air conditioning or fans
  • Becoming dehydrated

Tips to stay safe in hot weather

Things you can do to lower your risk of heat-related illness:

  • Drink plenty of liquids, such as water, fruit or vegetable juices, or drinks that contain electrolytes. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages. If your doctor has told you to limit your liquids, ask what you should do when it is very hot.
  • If you live in a home without air conditioning or fans, try to keep your space as cool as possible. Limit use of the oven; keep shades, blinds, or curtains closed during the hottest part of the day; and open windows at night.
  • If your living space is hot, try to spend time during midday in a place that has air conditioning. For example, go to the shopping mall, movies, library, senior center, or a friend’s home. You may also contact your local health department or city to find out if they have air-conditioned shelters in your area.
  • If you need help getting to a cooler place, ask a friend or relative. Some religious groups, senior centers, and Area Agencies on Aging provide this service. Search the Eldercare Locator to find services in your area. You could also consider taking a taxi or other car service or calling your local government to see if they offer senior transportation. Don’t stand outside in the heat waiting for a bus.
  • Dress for the weather. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Natural fabrics such as cotton may feel cooler than synthetic fibers.
  • Avoid outdoor exercising and other physical activity when it is very hot. Instead, try to find someplace you can be active while staying cool indoors.
  • If you must go outside, try to limit your time out and avoid crowded places. Plan trips during non-rush-hour times.
  • Make sure to use a broad spectrum sunscreen, SPF 15 or higher, and reapply it throughout the day, especially if your skin will have continuous exposure to the sun. Wear a hat and other protective clothing, and sunglasses. If you do get sunburned, stay out of the sun until your skin is healed and use cool cloths and moisturizers to treat the affected area.
  • Ask your doctor if any of your medications make you more likely to become overheated or sunburned.

Key points to remember about hot weather safety

Older people can have a tougher time dealing with heat and humidity. The temperature inside or outside does not have to be high to put them at risk for a heat-related illness.

Headache, confusion, dizziness, or nausea could be a sign of a heat-related illness. Go to the doctor or to an emergency room to find out if you need treatment.

To keep heat-related illnesses from becoming a dangerous heat stroke, remember to:

  • Get out of the sun and into a cool, ideally air-conditioned place.
  • Drink fluids but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Shower, bathe, or sponge off with cool water.
  • Lie down and rest.

To learn more, visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/safety/hot-weather-safety-older-adults.

Success Story: Patti Shomo

July 3, 2024

Seneca Place, in partnership with Reliant Rehabilitation, is excited to share resident Patti Shomo’s Success Story!

Patti was admitted to Seneca Place on April 30, 2024, under the care of Dr. Aftab Ahmed. During her stay, Occupational and Physical Therapy were initiated to identify her unique needs and develop specialized treatment plans to facilitate her transition to the next level of care. Thanks to her dedication and the therapy team’s efforts, Patti successfully discharged home on May 17, 2024! Patti says, “My therapist understands me and encourages me to accomplish my goals. I can now walk by myself. Be patient and work hard, one day at a time.” Congratulations to Patti and her Care Team on their success!

What Is Long-Term Care?

July 1, 2024

Long-term care involves a variety of services designed to meet a person’s health or personal care needs when they can no longer perform everyday activities on their own. This article provides an overview of long-term care planning, services, and costs, as well as other resources.

Who needs long-term care?

Many people will need long-term care at some point. However, it can be difficult to predict how much or what type of care a person might need.

The need for long-term care can arise suddenly, such as after a heart attack or stroke. More often, however, the need for long-term care develops gradually. People require more care as they get older and frailer or as a serious, ongoing illness or health condition gets worse.

Healthy habits can reduce the risk of many diseases and may help delay or prevent the need for long-term care. Good nutrition, regular physical activity, not smoking, and limited drinking of alcohol can help you stay healthy. So can an active social life, a safe home, and regular health care. Talk to your health care provider about your medical and family history and lifestyle. They may suggest actions you can take to improve your health.

What are the different types of long-term care services?

Long-term care involves a wide variety of support services to help people live as independently and safely as possible. It is provided in different places by different caregivers, depending on a person’s needs.

Home-based care

In many cases, long-term care is provided at home by informal caregivers, such as family members, friends, and neighbors. Most home-based care services involve personal care — help with everyday activities, also called “activities of daily living.” These activities include bathing, dressing, eating, and taking medications, as well as supervision to make sure a person is safe.

Home-based care can also be supplemented by formal caregivers who are paid for their services. These caregivers include nurses, home health care aides, therapists, and other professionals. They can help older people with many aspects of health care, including giving medications, caring for wounds, helping with medical equipment, and providing physical therapy.

Get detailed information about in-home support services, including suggestions for arranging them, information about costs, and additional resources.

Community and residential care

Some aspects of long-term care can be provided in a person’s community, such as in an adult day care center or senior center. Care in these settings may include meals, exercise, social activities, personal care, and transportation. These services may be provided at no cost or for a fee.

Long-term care can also be given in a residential facility, such as assisted living or a nursing home. Some facilities offer only housing and housekeeping, but many also provide personal care, social and recreational activities, meals, and medical services. Some facilities offer special programs for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

Long-term care planning

The best time to think about long-term care is before you need it. Planning for the possibility of long-term care gives you and your family time to learn about services available in your community and what they cost. It also allows you to make important decisions while you are still able.

Begin by thinking about what would happen if you became seriously ill or disabled. Talk with your family, friends, and lawyer about who would provide care if you needed help for a long time and what kind of care you would want. People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia should begin planning for long-term care as soon as possible. Read more about advance care planning.

Most people prefer to stay in their own home for as long as they can. Staying in your own home as you get older is called “aging in place.” But living at home as you age requires careful consideration and planning. There may come a time when it’s no longer safe or comfortable to live alone. Be realistic and plan to revisit the decision as your needs change over time.

Paying for long-term care

Long-term care can be expensive. How people pay for care depends on their financial situation, their eligibility for assistance programs, and the kinds of services they use. People often rely on a variety of payment sources, including:

  • Personal funds, including savings, a pension or other retirement fund, income from investments, or proceeds from the sale of a home.
  • Federal and state government programs, such as MedicareMedicaid, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Visit Benefits.gov for more information about government programs for health care and financial assistance.
  • Private financing, including long-term care insurance, reverse mortgages, certain life insurance policies, annuities, and trusts.

Learn more about paying for long-term care.

To learn more, please visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/long-term-care/what-long-term-care.

Activities To Do with a Family Member or Friend Who Has Alzheimer’s Disease

June 24, 2024

It’s important to spend meaningful time with a family member or friend who has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Participating together in activities your loved one enjoys can help improve their quality of life and manage behavior changes that may come with the disease, such as sleep problemsaggression, and agitation. It can also help grow and strengthen your connection. However, it may be difficult to know what activities you can safely do with your loved one.

Explore examples below. You may need to modify these activities based on the person’s preferences and abilities.

ACTIVITIES TO DO AROUND THE HOUSE

  • Make a memory book — look through old pictures together and create a scrapbook.
  • Water house and garden plants.
  • Listen to their favorite music.
  • Watch their favorite show or movie.
  • Do an arts and craft project such as painting or drawing.
  • Knit or crochet together.
  • Cuddle, feed, or brush a household pet.
  • Present an instrument the person used to play such as a piano or guitar. Play, whistle, or sing along.
  • Sweep or vacuum.

Learn more about activity planning for people with Alzheimer’s.

ACTIVITIES TO KEEP MOVING

  • Go for a walk on a safe path clear of branches or other obstacles.
  • Dance to music the person likes or tap your feet.
  • Go to the gym — try walking next to each other on the treadmill or using a stationary bike.
  • Lift weights or household items such as filled water bottles.
  • Plant flowers.
  • Stretch or do yoga.
  • Go to a local museum.
  • Participate in a water aerobics class.

Learn more about staying physically active with Alzheimer’s disease.

ACTIVITIES TO ENGAGE THE MIND

  • Play a board or card game.
  • Work on a puzzle together.
  • Read poems or a book together.
  • Write cards to other family members and friends.
  • Play a computer game.

Learn more about activities that help keep an active mind.

FOR ANY ACTIVITY, REMEMBER TO BE PATIENT

No matter what activity you are engaging in, try to be patient. It may take the person with Alzheimer’s or another dementia longer to complete activities. Or they may not be able to accomplish things they used to do. If the person seems agitated, consider whether any activity is needed. Building in quiet times by just sitting together can be rewarding, too.

TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND

  • If the person is not enjoying the activity, try something else. You don’t need to finish every activity you start.
  • Be realistic about how much activity can be done at one time and adjust the pace if needed.
  • Make sure the person wants to do the activity and that you are taking it slow.
  • Engage in meaningful and productive activities when you can. It can boost the person’s mood and help them feel a sense of purpose.
  • It’s important to help children understand that they can still talk with the person living with Alzheimer’s and enjoy activities together, even if the person doesn’t always remember them, or asks or repeats a lot of questions.

ACTIVITIES THAT PROMOTE HEALTHY EATING

  • Cook together — ask the person about their favorite meal and work together to make it. Or look up healthy cooking videos online and try to make them yourselves.
  • Plant vegetables together in the garden or in pots.
  • Have a picnic together — bring healthy food options the person likes. Bring a portable or camping chair if the person has trouble sitting on the ground.

Learn more about healthy eating and Alzheimer’s disease.

ACTIVITIES TO STAY SOCIALLY ENGAGED

  • Join a dementia-friendly exercise class.
  • Invite friends over for tea or snacks.
  • See if there is a memory café in your community.
  • Plan a video call with a group of friends.
  • Join a book club together or start your own with friends and family.
  • Host a family game night.

Learn more about the importance of staying socially connected for health and well-being as we age.

ACTIVITIES TO DO WITH CHILDREN

  • Read stories out loud.
  • Look through a photo album.
  • Paint with watercolors or draw a picture.
  • Play with building blocks.
  • Listen to music or sing.
  • Make tie-dye shirts.

Learn more about helping children understand Alzheimer’s disease

Cognitive Health and Older Adults

June 17, 2024

ve health is the ability to think, learn, and remember clearly. It is needed to carry out many everyday activities effectively. Cognitive health is just one aspect of overall brain health.

Many factors contribute to cognitive health. Genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors may contribute to a decline in thinking skills and the ability to perform everyday tasks, such as driving, paying bills, taking medicine, and cooking. Although genetic factors can’t be controlled, many environmental and lifestyle factors can be changed or managed.

Scientific research suggests that there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of cognitive decline and help maintain your cognitive health. These small changes can add up: Making them part of your routine can support your brain function now and in the future.

What is brain health?

Brain health refers to how well a person’s brain functions across several areas. Aspects of brain health inclide:

  • Cognitive health – how well you think, learn, and remember
    • Motor function – how well you make and control movements, including balance
    • Emotional function – how well you interpret and respond to emotions (both pleasant and unpleasant)
    • Tactical function – how well you feel and respond to sensations of touch, including pressure, pain, and temperature
    • Sensory function – how well you see, hear, taste, and detect odors

Brain health can be affected by age-related changes in the brain, injuries such as stroke or traumatic brain injury; mood disorders such as depression, substance use disorder, or addiction; and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

Take care of your physical health

Taking care of your physical health may also help your cognitive health. You can:

Manage high blood pressure

Preventing or controlling high blood pressure not only helps your heart but can also help your brain. Decades of observational studies have shown that having high blood pressure in midlife — from the 40s to the early 60s — increases the risk of cognitive decline later in life. Further, in the large SPRINT MIND study, researchers found that people age 50 and older who lowered their systolic blood pressure to less than 120 mmHg reduced their risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, which is often a precursor to dementia, over five years of treatment.

High blood pressure often does not cause signs of illness that you can see or feel. Annual screenings at your doctor’s office can help determine if your blood pressure is elevated, even though you might feel fine. To control or lower high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest exercise; changes in your diet; and, if needed, medication.

Eat healthy foods

Many studies suggest that a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes.  

In general, a healthy, balanced diet consists of fruits and vegetables; whole grains; lean meats, fish, and poultry; and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. You should also limit solid fats, sugar, and salt. Be sure to control portion sizes and drink enough water and other fluids.

There is also mixed evidence that certain diets can help keep your brain healthy, preserve cognitive function, or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. For example, some observational studies reported that people who eat a Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of developing dementia. Another diet, called MIND, is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. The MIND diet has also been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and a slower rate of cognitive decline in some studies. Still, despite these promising findings, results are not conclusive. For example, a recent clinical trial found that participants who followed the MIND diet had only small improvements in cognition that were similar to those who followed a control diet with mild caloric restriction.

Researchers continue to study these diets as well as individual foods and dietary supplements to learn more about possible effects on cognitive health.

At this time, no vitamin or supplement is recommended for preventing Alzheimer’s or other forms of cognitive decline. However, recent clinical trials have shown that taking a daily multivitamin may improve memory and cognition in older adults.

Learn more about diet and prevention of Alzheimer’s.

Be physically active

Being physically active — through regular exercise, household chores, or other activities — has many benefits. Physical activities can help you:

  • Maintain and improve your strength
  • Have more energy
  • Improve your balance
  • Prevent or delay heart disease, diabetes, and other disorders
  • Improve your mood and reduce depression

Several studies have supported a connection between physical activity and brain health. For example, one study found that higher levels of a protein that boosts brain health were present in both mice and humans who were more physically active than in sedentary peers. An observational study with cognitively normal, late-middle age participants found that more time spent doing moderate levels of physical activity was associated with a greater increase in brain glucose metabolism — how quickly the brain turns glucose into fuel — which may reduce the risk for developing Alzheimer’s. And a randomized controlled trial showed that exercise can increase the size of a brain structure important to memory and learning, resulting in better spatial memory. Although these results are encouraging, more research is needed to determine what role exercise may play in preventing cognitive decline.

Federal guidelines recommend that all adults get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of physical activity each week. Walking is a good start. You can also join programs that teach you to move more safely and help prevent falls. This is important because falling can lead to serious injury, including injuries to the brain. Check with your health care provider if you are not currently active but want to start a vigorous exercise program.

Keep your mind engaged

Cognitive training, which is designed to improve specific cognitive skills, appears to have benefits for maintaining cognitive health in older adults. A large randomized, controlled trial called the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) trial tested the effects of cognitive training — specifically memory, reasoning, or speed of processing — on cognitive abilities and everyday function over 10 years. The study found that participants who had training in reasoning and speed of processing experienced less decline than those in the memory and control groups. Building on the ACTIVE study, NIA is supporting a large clinical trial to assess whether speed of processing training can reduce incidence of cognitive impairment and dementia.

Beware of claims that playing certain computer and online games can improve your memory and thinking. There currently is not enough evidence available to suggest that commercially available computer-based brain-training applications have the same impact on cognitive abilities as the ACTIVE study training.

Staying engaged in other meaningful activities as you grow older may also have important cognitive benefits. For example, one study found that older adults who learned quilting or digital photography had more memory improvement than those who only socialized or did less cognitively demanding activities. Research on engagement in activities such as music, theater, dance, and creative writing has shown promise for improving quality of life and well-being, from better memory and self-esteem to reduced stress and increased social interaction, but more research is needed in these areas.

Overall, it’s important to know that evidence for a lasting beneficial cognitive effect of these types of activities is not definitive. NIA supports expanding studies in this area to include larger numbers of a diverse range of older adults in order to further test how such activities may help reduce cognitive decline or maintain healthy cognition.

Stay connected with social activities

Staying connected with your family, friends, and neighbors through social activities and community programs is a great way to ward off isolation and loneliness. But did you know it may also help support your cognitive function? For example, early results from a clinical trial of almost 200 adults age 75 and older — the Conversational Engagement Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial (I-CONECT) — showed that regular internet calls could help lower the risk of cognitive decline and social isolation. Another example comes from the Health and Retirement Study, a long-term study funded by NIA. Researchers analyzed data from more than 7,000 participants age 65 and older and found that high social engagement, including visiting with neighbors and doing volunteer work, was associated with better cognitive health in later life.

If you would like to strengthen your social connections, consider volunteering for a local organization or joining a group focused on an activity you enjoy, such as walking. You can find available programs through your Area Agency on Aging, senior center, public library, or other community organizations. Increasingly, there are groups that meet online, providing a way to connect from home with others who share your interests or to get support.

Address physical and mental health problems

Many health conditions affect the brain and pose risks to cognitive function. These conditions include:

  • Stroke — can damage blood vessels in the brain and increase risk for vascular dementia.
  • Depression — can lead to confusion or attention problems and has been linked to dementia.
  • Delirium — shows up as a sudden state of confusion, often during a hospital stay, and is frequently followed by cognitive decline or impairment.

If you have symptoms of any of these serious health problems, it is important to seek treatment. Effective management of health conditions like these may help prevent or delay cognitive decline or thinking problems.

Understand how medicines can affect the brain

Some medicines and combinations of medicines can cause confusion, memory loss, hallucinations, and delusions in older adults.

Medicines can also interact with food, dietary supplements, alcohol, and other substances. Some of these interactions can affect how your brain functions. Drugs that can impair older adults’ cognition include:

  • Antihistamines for allergy relief
  • Sleep aids
  • Antipsychotics
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Drugs that treat urinary incontinence
  • Medications for relief of cramps in the stomach, intestines, and bladder

Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about your medications or possible side effects. Do not stop taking any prescribed medications without consulting your health care provider first.

To learn more, please visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/brain-health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults.

Success Story: Michelle Mendez

June 13, 2024

Seneca Place is excited to share resident Michelle Mendez’s Success Story!

Michelle was admitted to Seneca Place on April 18, 2024, under the care of Dr. Aftab Ahmed. During her stay, the Occupational and Physical Therapy team from Reliant Rehabilitation provided skilled interventions to address her adaptation, compensation, and restoration potential. They coordinated with the interdisciplinary team to ensure all appropriate clinical care areas were addressed. After 29 days, Michelle successfully discharged home! Michelle said, “I like my rehab team. I can now walk further. Give it your best and your therapist will give you the best! I am pleased with my outcomes. The therapy exceeded my expectations.” Congratulations to Michelle and her Care Team on their success!

Memory, Forgetfulness, and Aging: What’s Normal and What’s Not?

June 10, 2024

Older adults may worry about their memory and other thinking abilities, such as taking longer to learn something new. These changes are usually signs of mild forgetfulness — or age-related forgetfulness — and are often a normal part of aging.

However, more serious memory problems could be due to mild cognitive impairmentdementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, or other factors beyond normal aging.

MEMORY CHANGES WITH AGE

As people grow older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. As a result, some people notice that they don’t remember information as well as they once did and aren’t able to recall it as quickly. They may also occasionally misplace things or forget to pay a bill. These usually are signs of mild forgetfulness, not a serious memory problem.

It’s normal to forget things once in a while at any age, but serious memory problems make it hard to do everyday things such as driving, using the phone, and finding the way home.

Signs that it might be time to talk with a doctor include:

  • Asking the same questions over and over again
  • Getting lost in places you used to know well
  • Having trouble following recipes or directions
  • Becoming more confused about time, people, and places
  • Not taking care of yourself — eating poorly, not bathing, or behaving unsafely

Talk with a doctor if you are experiencing noticeable changes in your memory. A doctor can perform tests and assessments to help determine the source of memory problems. Your health care provider may also recommend that you see a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the brain and nervous system.

You may also wish to talk with your doctor about opportunities to participate in research on cognitive health and aging.

TIPS FOR DEALING WITH FORGETFULNESS

There are a variety of techniques that may help you stay healthy and deal better with changes in memory and mental skills. Here are some tips:

  • Learn a new skill.
  • Follow a daily routine.
  • Plan tasks, make to-do lists, and use memory tools such as calendars and notes.
  • Put your wallet or purse, keys, phone, and glasses in the same place each day.
  • Stay involved in activities that can help both the mind and body.
  • Volunteer in your community, at a school, or at your place of worship.
  • Spend time with friends and family.
  • Get enough sleep, generally seven to eight hours each night.
  • Exercise and eat well.
  • Prevent or control high blood pressure.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol.
  • Get help if you feel depressed for weeks at a time.
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Some older adults have a condition called mild cognitive impairment — MCI — meaning they have more memory or thinking problems than other people their age. People with MCI can usually take care of themselves and are able to carry out their day-to-day tasks. MCI may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s.
  • If you’re experiencing changes in your memory or think you may have MCI, talk with your doctor. Learn more about the symptoms of MCI.
  • Dementia versus age-related forgetfulness
  • Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. However, dementia is not a normal part of aging. Dementia includes the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, learning, and reasoning — and behavioral abilities to the extent that it interferes with a person’s quality of life and activities. Memory loss, though common, is not the only sign of dementia. People with dementia may also have problems with language skills, visual perception, or paying attention. Some people experience personality changes.
  • There are different types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s diseaseLewy body dementiafrontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia, and symptoms may vary from person to person. The chart below compares some differences between normal aging and the signs of dementia.

WHAT ELSE CAN AFFECT MEMORY?

It’s possible for memory problems to stem from factors unrelated to dementia or normal aging. For example, medical conditions, such as depression or blood clots, can cause memory problems. These problems usually go away once the condition is successfully treated.

Factors that may cause memory problems include:

Major, traumatic, or stressful life events can also cause memory problems. For example, someone who has recently retired or who is coping with the death of a spouse may feel sad, lonely, worried, or bored. Stress and negative emotions are powerful. Trying to deal with such life changes and emotions leaves some people confused or forgetful.

These memory problems from negative emotions are usually temporary and will improve as the stress and emotions fade. Being active, socially engaged, and experiencing a sense of accomplishment by learning new skills can help with both memory and improving mood. If memory problems persist after a few weeks, talk with your doctor as this may be a sign of something more serious.

Finding the cause of memory problems is important for determining the best course of action. Once the cause is diagnosed, you and your doctor can determine the best treatment plan. People with memory problems should make a follow-up appointment to check their memory every six to 12 months.

To learn more, please visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/memory-loss-and-forgetfulness/memory-problems-forgetfulness-and-aging.

Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month 2024

June 3, 2024

In recognition of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month in June, NIA is raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease among the Latino community including Latinos living with dementia, their caregivers, and their families. Throughout the month we will share information, research, and resources on dementia, caregiving, and clinical trials in English and Spanish using the #NIAAlzheimers hashtag. Each week will focus on a different topic related to Alzheimer’s:

  • June 3-7: Learn about the basics of Alzheimer’s disease and risk in the Latino community
  • June 10-14: Explore Alzheimer’s causes and tips for reducing risk
  • June 17-21: Find resources for caregivers
  • June 24-28: Get the facts on clinical trials

How To Participate?

Everyone can play a role in promoting dementia resources. Consider taking the following actions:

  • Help spread the word by sharing NIA’s X and Facebook posts and follow NIA on X and Facebook.
  • Use the #NIAAlzheimers hashtag to follow along and share your own resources.
  • Share NIA’s infographics and videos or use one of the following sample posts:
    • Join @NIHAging throughout June for a conversation on #Alzheimers, #ClinicalTrials, and #caregiving among the Latino community. Each week NIA will share tips and resources in English and Spanish. Don’t miss out on this valuable conversation! #NIAAlzheimers https://go.nia.nih.gov/3wD1rOd 
    • We are excited to celebrate #AlzheimersAndBrainAwarenessMonth this June. Follow @NIHAging and #NIAAlzheimers for a bilingual conversation on #Alzheimers, #ClinicalTrials, and more all month long! https://go.nia.nih.gov/3wD1rOd

Health Professionals and Community Organizations

If you’re a health care professional or organization that works closely with the Latino community, NIA offers free print publications in English and Spanish and you can request copies of NIA’s Spanish and English resources postcard to distribute at your clinic, health fairs, or other community events. You can also explore more resources for providers.

To learn more, please visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/alzheimers-and-brain-awareness-month-2024.

Preventing Falls at Home: Room by Room

May 28, 2024

Many falls happen at home, where we spend much of our time and tend to move around without thinking about our safety. There are many changes you can make to your home that will help prevent falls and better ensure your safety.

On this page:

Floors, stairways, and hallway

  • Ensure there are handrails on both sides of any stairs, and make sure they are secure. Hold the handrails when you go up or down stairs, even when you are carrying something. Don’t let anything you’re carrying block your view of the steps.
  • Ensure there is good lighting with light switches at the top and bottom of stairs and on each end of a long hall. Consider using motion-activated lights that plug into electrical outlets and automatically turn on when you walk by them to help illuminate stairwells and pathways.
  • Keep areas where you walk tidy. Don’t leave books, papers, clothes, or shoes on the floor or stairs.
  • Check that all carpets are fixed firmly to the floor, so they won’t slip. Put no-slip strips, which you can buy at any hardware store, on tile and wooden floors.
  • Don’t use throw rugs or small area rugs.
  • Don’t walk on slippery, newly washed floors.

Bathrooms

  • Mount grab bars near toilets and on both the inside and outside of your tub and shower.
  • Place nonskid mats, strips, or carpet on all surfaces that may get wet.
  • Remember to leave a light on in the bathroom at night or use a night light that turns on automatically in the dark.

Bedrooms

  • Put night lights and light switches close to your bed.
  • Keep a flashlight by your bed in case the power goes out and you need to get up.
  • Place a landline or well-charged phone near your bed.

Kitchen

  • Keep frequently used pots, pans, and kitchen utensils in a place where they are easy to reach.
  • Clean up spills immediately.
  • Prepare food while seated to prevent fatigue or loss of balance.

Outdoor spaces

  • If you have steps leading to your front door, make sure they are not broken or uneven.
  • Add non‐slip material to outdoor stairways.
  • Keep the lawn, deck, or porch areas clear of debris, such as fallen branches.
  • Consider installing a grab bar near the front door to provide balance while you are locking or unlocking the door.
  • Turn on your porch light at night and if you leave during the day but plan on returning home after dark.
  • In the winter, treat outdoor walkways with an ice melt product or sand to make them less slippery.

Other living areas

  • Keep electrical cords near walls and away from walking paths.
  • Arrange your furniture (especially low coffee tables) and other objects so they are not in your way when you walk.
  • Make sure your sofas and chairs are the right height for you to get in and out of easily.
  • Keep items you use often at waist level or within easy reach.
  • Don’t stand on a chair or table to reach something that’s too high — use a “reach stick” instead or ask for help. Reach sticks are special grabbing tools that you can buy at many hardware or medical-supply stores. If you use a step stool, make sure it’s steady and has a handrail on top. Have someone stand next to you.
  • Don’t let your cat or dog trip you. Know where your pet is whenever you’re standing or walking.
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers in large print near each landline phone and save them under “favorites” on your mobile phone.

If you have fallen, your doctor might suggest that an occupational therapist, physical therapist, or nurse visit your home. These health care providers can assess your home’s safety and advise you about making changes to lower your risk of falls.

Tools to get help

Read and share this infographic and help spread the word about how to help prevent falls.

If you’re concerned about falling, set up systems to ensure you can get help if you fall. One option is installing an emergency response system. If you fall or need emergency help, you push a button on a special necklace or bracelet to alert 911. There is a fee for this service, and it’s usually not covered by insurance.

Another option is to carry a well-charged cordless or mobile phone with you as you move throughout the house. Have close friends and family on speed dial. Consider setting up a smart home device (a small speaker that listens and responds to commands when you call its name) that can quickly connect you to contacts or emergency response teams. Some smartwatches can be set up to make emergency calls at the push of a button and others can even detect sudden fall-like movements and automatically call for help. Ask family and friends for help setting up these tools.

Home improvement resources

Many state and local governments have education and/or home modification programs to help older people prevent falls. Check with your local health department, search the Eldercare Locator, or call 800-677-1116 to find your local Area Agency on Aging to see if there is a program near you.

To learn more, please visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/falls-and-falls-prevention/preventing-falls-home-room-room.