Ways to keep cognitive skills in the early stages of memory decline
Cognitive aging is, put simply, a process that all people must go through as they grow older. While we typecast and stereotype the effects of memory decline as an ailment of the elderly, brains age at different rates, depending on the individual.
Truthfully, there are many different factors that can affect cognitive abilities at all points in our lifetime. These factors can include medications that can impact our mental abilities or conditions like anxiety or depression, which can lower our drive to consume more information.
Fortunately, there are certain steps that can help prevent premature cognitive aging and actually sharpen our mental abilities. According to Emory University, these include:
- Reducing stress: Researchers have found that high stress levels impair learning and memory in both animals and humans. Strategies to reduce stress such as exercise, deep breathing or meditation may be beneficial.
- Maintaining Good Health: Regular visits to the doctor are critical to make sure that medical conditions which can impair thinking are under control. Physicians can also check if possible interactions among medications need to be evaluated, especially if prescribed medications by more than one doctor. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants such as blueberries, strawberries, and broccoli as well as certain fats such as olive oil are known to benefit brain function and protect from neuron degeneration.
- Keeping Mentally Stimulated: Studies have found that engaging in challenging cognitive tasks can protect against age-related declines in thinking and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to keep oneself stimulated through activities such as playing bridge, reading, and attending adult education courses.
- Using Active Strategies: There is evidence that some of the difficulties in storing new memories are due to the fact that older persons do not spontaneously use strategies to encode this information. When they do, age differences are weakened. In addition, older adults demonstrate good recognition of new information when they are helped with cues to jog their memory. Strategies that can be helpful to facilitate memory include following a routine (e.g., always putting one’s keys in the same place), using external techniques (e.g., a calendar, a pill box), and taking more time to actively process new information (e.g., when introduced to someone, pay extra attention and try to come up with an association to recall that person’s name)
Incorporating these strategies can help heighten mental awareness and cognition at any age.
At Paradise Living Center, we have extensive experience caring for residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s. To help ensure that all of our residents are mentally stimulated, we provide the opportunity to participate in diverse daily activities and memory care programs.