Memory lapses are a normal part of aging. Knowing the kinds of memory we use can make it easier to understand which ones cause glitches for us, and what adjustments we can make to better manage our memory.
I was starting to get a bit bored with swimming lengths for exercise, until I ran across Greg Whyte’s book * at the local public library. Oh, sure, I knew swimming is good for body and mind. Physically, it exercises muscles, heart, and lungs, and gets the blood flowing which is good for the brain. Mentally, swimming helps reduce anxiety, improve mood, and increase self-confidence. It also gives us time to clear our minds, and focus on what really matters to us. But knowing swimming is good for us might not keep us motivated over the long term.
We humans are social beings. Even the introverts among us benefit from regular contact with people we know. And therein lies the key to aging well – socially engaging with people we know. On top of that, we need to be meaningfully and purposefully occupied as part of the schedule of our days, weeks, and months.
The good news is that these two needs can work well together – engaging socially in meaningful and purposeful occupation on a regular basis. They can also operate separately, as Samuel Johnson pointed out.
People fear dementia* much more than physical disability as they age. The thought of our mental faculties failing us is deeply disturbing, but in many cases we can reduce the risk, and delay or slow the development, of cognitive impairment.
1. Be physically active
Moderate aerobic exercise at least four times a week – e.g. going for a brisk walk, swimming, dancing, gardening – helps to improve circulation, which brings more blood and oxygen to the brain. Nearly one quarter of the blood and oxygen from every beat of your heart is meant for your brain. You don’t have to go to extremes – just enough to increase your breathing and heart rate to a moderate level. Aerobic exercise also helps reduce the risk of anxiety and depression.
You or your loved one goes out first thing on a cold morning to shovel snow. Next thing you know, you or your dearest lies collapsed on the ground, felled by a heart attack or stroke.
Now let’s back up and see why cold weather is connected to a rise in heart attacks and strokes, and what can be done to lessen the likelihood of losing a loved one, or you yourself dying. Those most at risk include people who lead sedentary lives, elderly people, winter sports enthusiasts, and those with a history of heart disease or stroke. Check with your doctor if you are at risk before taking on an outdoor activity in cold weather.
Whether we've lived in a place five days or five decades, knowing our neighbours and the people who live there helps us feel more connected to people and place, and builds our social support networks. So how do we build those connections? Here are some everyday strategies I’ve been gathering from folks for several years.
The thought of developing dementia is disturbing to just about all of us. Understanding normal changes in cognitive functioning as we age, particularly those pesky memory lapses, can help to calm our fears.