Aging and Middle Age Brain Health

Why we need to exercise … and don’t need a lot of those other products on

A Page Section from a Catalog

the market…

I am so tired of television, magazine, and catalog ads selling brain improvement products — to seniors as well as to people my age. They are starting to arrive regularly in my mailbox, and TV is an ad wasteland. The sales pitches and advertisements are tiresome, taking advantage of the fear older people have about aging and getting sick. But the ads are also targeted at people in my demographic group (later middle age) as we help our aging parents while simultaneously pondering the ways we can avoid as many of their medical problems as possible.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy crossword puzzles, have fun with Sudoku, and listen aptly to the New York Times’ CrossWord Puzzle editor Will Shortz each Sunday morning on National Public Radio’s Sunday Puzzlemaker segment. Such puzzles and games give me immense pleasure and keep my mind working hard. However this type of activity is only one small piece of the brain health puzzle (no pun intended).

Exercise is perhaps the most significant puzzle piece (Mayo Clinic). Most physicians and researchers agree that exercise benefits the body. When a body moves, the brain is a happier and more productive organ. That happier brain helps us stay healthier, age more gently, and continue to be enthusiastic and efficient lifelong learners. Continue reading

Going Back to Volunteer @ Assisted Living

Tonight we went back to volunteer at Chesterbrook Residences, the assisted living community where my husband’s mother spent her last two years. Our experience with this facility was stellar, and we both want to give something back because of how much support we received when Mother lived there,

The two of us arrived in time for supper, assisting in the dining room for over two hours. We helped residents choose food and get seated. Throughout the dinner hour we parked walkers in out-of-the-way places, scooped ice cream for dessert, and served coffee, tea, and drinks.  (Many people seem to need a lot of encouragement to drink liquids.)

Our plan is to volunteer at dinner every other Friday, and tonight was great fun. Continue reading

Communication: We are Always Children in Our Parents’ Eyes

“We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves.”
Henry Ward Beecher

Last night on the phone my mom directed me to take care of myself and rest up. She knows the past three years have been well-filled, and often tiring, as my husband and I assisted his mother with post-stroke support. Mom worries that I am not getting enough sleep and that I do too much. Also she knows that eventually we will be close-by helping her in the same way, and she also worries that I’ll work too hard at that.

After she made these comments my mom laughed saying, “Gee, I sound like my mother.” I laughed, too, because I often sound like her when I talk to my daughter who is a successful young adult.

“I’m the parent” experiences seem to repeat themselves in each generation.

I learned this few years ago. I called my mother to share a frustrating experience I had with my daughter. I talked on and on for some time, and my mother listened, occasionally making a comment. Finally I ended by asking, “Tell me Mom, does this ever end?”

My mom, on the other end of the telephone did not miss a beat. “When you stop doing it with me,” she said, “I’ll let you know.”

Aging Parents and Children: Wireless Medical Information

A few weeks age I wrote about a my mother-in-law’s atrial fibrillation, especially how she grew increasingly helpless as she felt the unusual heart beats while her physician never heard them. Even after Mother wore a monitor at home for 48 hour the monitoring it wasn’t enough to detect the problem. Additional consistent investigation was needed, but her stroke occurred before any other steps were taken.

Today I listened to the most amazing TED lecture (TED MED, actually) by cardiologist Dr. Eric Topol, formerly of the Cleveland Clinic and now at the Scripps Research Institute. He spoke about the potential for reliable monitoring of chronic medical conditions using medical monitoring tools that combine wireless and smartphone technology. According to Dr. Topol, this technology has the potential to help people and their physicians monitor health issues and identify problems before they evolve into more serious and more costly conditions. These tools would have been extremely helpful to my husband’s mother because the monitoring could have taken place over a much longer period of time. Continue reading

Aging Brains: A Review of Welcome to Your Brain

If you think a lot about your brain and why it acts like it does,  I’ve discovered a wonderful book.  Welcome to Your Brain, by Ph.D. neuroscientists Sandra A. Aamodt and Sam Wang tells all sorts of stories and dispels lots of myths. Published in 2008,  it’s  filled with clear and easy-to-read information about the human brain, its form, and its functions.

Yesterday in my post I wrote about senior moments, and Welcome to Your Brain provides answers to my questions as well as lots of brain background and trivia. The information is helpful for aging children who are not only thinking and worrying about their own brains, but also worrying about the brains of their aging parents. In fact the book is a reassuring resource for aging parents to read, especially if they are worrying about dementia. Continue reading

Aging Brains: The “Senior Moment” Comment

As aging children most of us are used to hearing friends and colleagues make the “senior moment” comment. Just about any time a person has difficulty remembering something he or she will comment, “…oops, I’m having a senior moment.” I began noticing this in my late 40’s and now, ten years later, it happens more than once a day. I say it too.

Part of this is joking about the normal changes occurring in our brains as we grow older, according to a recent Washington Post article, Memory lapses are common and increase with age; when do they signal Alzheimer’s?, published on February 9, 2010. As we get older, our brains become less efficient. However, I have now watched the steady decline and eventual death of a family member with dementia. As Mother’s condition continued to worsen, we found dozens of friends and acquaintances who were experiencing or had experienced the same disease in their families. Everyone was worried about dementia. When my husband and I had a moment to think about ourselves during that time, and it was not that often, we wondered how we might prevent dementia from occurring in our lives. It doesn’t feel like a joke. Continue reading