Quick! What did you have for lunch last Tuesday? What color was your outfit?

If you can’t remember it doesn’t mean your brain is already suffering with the symptoms of age. In fact, a recent article published by Harvard’s Medical School noted that an aging brain can often be a better brain. If you can’t remember the answers to the questions asked at the beginning of the blog, it’s not cause for concern. Forgetting minor details and taking longer to recall information isn’t so much a sign that your brain is slowing down, as a sign that it’s training itself for the next phase in your life.

Dr. Bruce Yankner, a Harvard professor of genetics explains that as we age the brain compensates for its slower functioning by using more of itself. As teenagers and young adults, we typically only use a small portion of our brain to solve problems. “MRIs taken of a teenager working through a problem show a lot of activity on one side of the prefrontal cortex, the region we use for conscious reasoning. In middle age, the other side of the brain begins to pitch in a little. In seniors, both sides of the brain share the task equally,” notes the Harvard report.

If we continue to challenge our minds, training our brains to rely on both sides, aging brains actually beats youth at several tasks. In several studies, seniors were superior to teenagers and young adults in inductive reasoning, verbal abilities, spatial reasoning, basic math, and finding contentment in their lives.

How do you ensure that your brain is aging well? By training it. Read, learn a language, write and solve puzzles in your free time. Even if it’s slow going at first, remember: you’re training yourself to call on your whole brain, instead of a few sections.

At Capital City Nurses, we know that aging comes with a stigma. But by training your brain, you’ll smart enough to ignore it.

Being young and beautiful is a blessing – and often one we don’t appreciate until we’re old and grey. It’s a fact of life that our bodies and minds change over time. Hair turns grey, our skin wrinkles and bodies weaken as the years pass, but that doesn’t make everyone over the age of 50 is doomed.

Scientists have long been interested in the aging process, with billions of dollars dedicated to the research and development of anti-aging products. So far, the results have been mostly cosmetic: creams that reduce wrinkles, prevent wrinkles, conceal wrinkles. Are a few extra lines really the greatest problem we have from aging?

Recently scientists have started to view aging as a disease. They’re studying how aging leads to cellular breakdowns and the weakening of DNA chains. The theory is that aging effects the body the same way a viral infection does, by destroy or compromising cells. By taking a microscopic look at this process, researchers have developed senolytics a whole class of drugs dedicated to reversing and stopping cell damage caused by aging.

Scripps Institute scientists discovered that two drugs used to treat cancer also attack parts of the aging process. Mice who were given the drugs displayed increased stamina, reduced osteoporosis and frailty, and a longer lifespan. The improvements were measurable in five days and lasted seven months. There’s only one problem with the drug treatments: They’re not sustainable. The drugs only destroy damaged or effected cells, they don’t replace or renew them. So while the drugs could provide a temporary cure, they won’t offer eternal youth – yet.

Until scientists find a way to “cure” aging, seniors will have to take more traditional steps to enjoy their later years. To reduce frailty the old fashioned way, stay active. Walking, gardening, playing with grandchildren, practicing yoga, or any other form of low impact exercise are excellent ways to improve muscle tone, increase balance and fortify bones. Changing your diet may also help improve your mental and physical wellbeing.

At Capital City Nurses, we know everyone prefers youth and beauty, but we don’t see aging as a disease. It’s a natural part of life and that should be enjoyed and celebrated. Take steps toward maintaining your health and you won’t need to wait for scientists to develop a miracle drug.

Does your home need a checkup?

It’s easy to take home safety for granted. Smoke alarms on the ceiling, fire extinguishers stowed in cabinets, and appropriate lighting in every room are a good place to start, but having them is only the beginning, you have to maintain them. If you have an aging loved one living at home, it’s imperative you help ensure that their household is safe.

Contrary to popular belief, smoke detectors do not have an infinite source of power. The batteries in them must be changed every six months to make sure they are functioning properly. Having a hard time remembering to change the batteries? Just change them during Daylight Savings each year. Whether they’ve forgotten, or don’t feel comfortable standing on a ladder to do it, many seniors haven’t changed the batteries in their alarms in years.

Keeping fresh batteries in a detector may seem unimportant, but smoke alarms are a significant home safety aid. According to the United States Fire Administration, the risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes featuring working smoke alarms. The agency also reports that three-fifths of fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms.

Fire extinguishers are another safety essential that can be easily neglected. Many seniors purchase extinguishers, then assume they’re protected. But what good is a fire extinguisher if it malfunctions when you need it. To make sure your extinguisher is working, it must be checked monthly. Extinguishers should be inspected for visible damage, the pressure gauges inspected to make sure they still fall within the acceptable limits, and affirm that the pull pin and tamper seal are still intact. If you have any questions, your local fire station can help you assess the extinguisher.

Finally, make sure your loved one is living in a well-lit space. The CDC reports that falls are the greatest danger to seniors, with over a third of American seniors experiencing a fall in the past year. One of the most common reasons for falls in the home is insufficient lighting. Dark corners obscure upturned rugs, clutter and wires – all common culprits of falls. Make sure the home has a stock of lightbulbs and offer to replace them personally rather than risk your aging loved one climbing upon a chair or step stool.

At Capital City Nurses, we know that you have to be vigilant to be safe. Go through this Senior Household Safety Checklist with your aging loved one and set a safety schedule. With fresh batteries, a few lightbulbs and a visual inspection or two, you can reduce your senior’s chances for injury. That’s worth a trip to the hardware store, isn’t it?

As you begin to age, a great deal of focus is put on living for the moment. While that’s great advice when you’re spending time with your family and friends, seniors should always live with an eye toward the future. By making positive changes in their lives, seniors can make their futures brighter.

Though eating healthy and staying active are often cited as ways to improve the aging process, there is a subject that is often overlooked: Finances.

Sometimes uncomfortable to talk about and daunting to manage, financial management is an essential part of the aging process. As Americans reach the age of retirement, they are finding themselves in debt and unable to fully enjoy their golden years. The Employee Benefit Research Institute reports that 65.4 percent of families, in which the head of the household is 55 or older, are in debt.

The average amount of debt in a senior household is $50,000. Typically, this debt is not a new thing. It is frequently carried over from their working life into retirement. A debt that was manageable when one was working can easily become unwieldy after retirement.

Financial hardships are often a product of the unexpected: Medical bills and home repairs are the most frequent reasons for debt accruement. The rise in property tax and mortgage rates mean that many seniors are facing bills their retirement budgets didn’t account for. Credit card debt is also up among seniors. Many Americans who wish to age in place are finding that maintaining and upgrading their homes is quickly eating away at their savings.

If you find yourself approaching retirement with debt, the time to take action is now. Speak to a consolidation company and work out a payment plan that will allow you to live on your retirement money while reducing your debt. If you fear your parents or loved ones are accruing debt, don’t wait to find out. Start the conversation with them and seek professional financial counseling if needed.

At Capital City Nurses, we believe that seniors should enjoy the moment, but think of the future. Start your planning today.