For those of us hoping to age in good health, there may be something new in this basic message – exercise, eat your fruits and veggies and of course watch your fats! “We repackage the same concepts, but with a twist,” says Peggy Buchanan, the coordinator of vitality and wellness programming for retirement living communities in Southern California.
In This Dementia Article:
Bob and Jackie Glass, Irvine residents for over 30 years, dance together at a senior’s dance. Dancing serves as exercise and stimulates the brain.
“Science, through research and technology, does make progressive changes in the basics. Like those fruits and vegetables. We know we need them for antioxidants, and today we talk about bringing “color” to the table: green broccoli, blueberries, red radishes.”
Peggy Buchanan says the same variety is important in brain games, highly touted as a potential way to stave off Alzheimer’s and other dementias, which are expected to impact half the 85-plus population.
“The brain is like a gymnasium,” Buchanan says. “Depending on what you are working on, you can exercise different areas of the brain.
“A crossword impacts our short term focus. But dancing – maybe a new activity for you – increases oxygen to the brain, stresses coordinated movement.”
Answers were provided by Peggy Buchanan, vitality and wellness programming coordinator for several retirement living communities in Southern California.
Q. You have more than 30 years experience in the health and fitness industry. What’s the first thing you tell seniors when it comes to enhancing their overall wellness?
A. Fight afternoon fatigue. Fatigue is a common problem among seniors, especially after lunch. Having a glass of water and a high-antioxidant food like a prune can revitalize the body and stimulate the mind.
Q. Ah, prunes. Usually associated with elders. How about avoiding dementia?
A. Exercise from the neck up. Keeping the brain active and fit is imperative to the health of seniors. Not only does it stave off memory-loss illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia, but it also fosters executive function. Try word games and recall exercises. For example, find five red objects during a walk in the neighborhood and recall them when back home.
Q. You also say walking poles are better than canes?
A. Canes are training your body to be off-center because you are leaning on one arm. Walking poles allow for more balanced mobility. Walking with poles also engages the muscles of the upper torso, which increases upper-body strength and cardiovascular endurance. But consult a physician before switching to poles.
Q. Any other suggestions to help prevent Dementia?
A. Dine in duos. Those who share meals with others eat less than those who eat alone. This is an easy weight-loss tactic and one that also fosters social interaction and engagement. While this is easy for those aging in community, seniors aging at home can plan to have meals with family or friends several times a week.
Then break your routine. Routine limits brain stimulation. Introduce new foods or new ways of eating the same food. For example, replaced canned peaches with freshly sliced ones. Or try taking a different route to the grocery store or shopping center.
Don’t forget seniors with an increased genetic risk for dementia also can reduce that risk by increasing the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. These fatty acids are found in fish, nuts, olive oil and green leafy vegetables.
Then, remember as people age, the fat pads on the bottom of their feet compress, creating fatigue and pain. Consider wearing supportive shoes or inserting foot pads for better stability and comfort or socks that have extra padding and a wicking agent to keep feet dry and comfortable.
In addition to the exercises that improve flexibility and improve strength and cardiovascular endurance, make sure to add balance activities daily. Good balance requires maintaining a center of gravity over the base of support. Tai chi, yoga, walking on challenging surfaces and water exercises all help.
Of course, high blood pressure, which can lead to strokes and a significant decline in cognitive function, also increases with age. Plus the sense of taste fades with age. There’s a strong desire to add more salt. Putting down the shaker and increasing exercise helps.
Q. Ah, boring exercise.
A. No! Here’s a new thought: Dance like there’s no tomorrow. Seniors who are getting regular physical exercise are 60 percent less likely to get dementia. Exercise increases oxygen to the brain and releases a protein that strengthens cell and neurons. Dance involves all of the above plus the cerebral activity present in learning and memory.
About the Author:
Jane Glenn Haas is a multi-media personality – a newspaper writer, national columnist, book author, television host, professional speaker and founder of WomanSage, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering, educating and fostering mentoring relationships among women at midlife. Jane has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, she has been honored for Excellence in Aging Reporting with the Hugh Downs Award of the International Longevity Center; the American Society on Aging Media Award; the American Medical Writers Association Rose Kushner Award; the American Heart Association C. Everett Koop Award; the Alzheimer’s Association Rosemary Award, and many others.
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