Making The ConnectionsAs you age, memory fades. It’s not necessarily a sign of something sinister; forgetfulness has long been accepted as a natural part of aging. But scientists are beginning to understand how we form and keep memories.

At UCLA, scientists have discovered that synapses, the electrical trails between neurons, can become worn as we age. Memories and associations can become weaker over time as the synapses connecting the thoughts deteriorate. Scientists have previously focused their efforts on researching how brains make memories, not on how memories are stored in the brain. This new research suggests that connections between neurons can be reestablished by encouraging electrical activity in synapses.

One of the more promising ways this research is paying off for Alzheimer’s patients can be found in a UCLA study. For the first time in medical history, the study was able to show real improvement in the memories of Alzheimer’s patients. Researchers used custom treatments for each patient—including dietary alterations, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep training, pharmaceuticals, and a few other techniques designed to alter brain chemistry. The results are impressive: The subjects of the study show a partial reversal of memory loss and improvements in other systems.

As scientists learn more about how we make and store memories, our ability to combat diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s will grow. Until scientists develop an effective treatment, it is still possible to take steps to minimize your risk of memory loss.

In order to keep your mind healthy, take inspiration from the UCLA study and work to maintain an active brain. A healthy diet that minimizes sugars and nontraditional fats has been shown to keep brains healthy. Drinking two cups of coffee a day can also help your body maintain its brain power. Exercise, even as little as a 30-minute daily walk, can help seniors maintain healthy brain function. Finally, keep your mind active by challenging yourself every day. Learn a new language, complete a crossword puzzle, or engage in a lively debate. Making yourself learn new information and recall it rapidly is an excellent way to keep your mind sharp.

While scientists figure out exactly how to reverse the process of memory loss in the aging population, it’s possible for seniors to take steps now to maintain a healthy, active mind.

 

Elderly CareThe World Health Organization (WHO) has long been a driving force in the global community. This essential organization advises on outbreaks such as Zika and Ebola, alerts the world to upcoming endemics, and offers guidance to nations about how to improve their public health programs. This year, the WHO has chosen to focus on a public health issue that will affect every nation on earth: the growth of the aging population.

The WHO has created a program, 21st Century Longevity, that outlines a series of goals for the coming years. The organization is calling for a commitment to creating healthy aging programs in every country. Among the goals of these programs are to develop age-friendly environments for seniors; to align health systems to accommodate the needs of older citizens; to ensure sustainable long-term care systems; and to improve the monitoring of the aging population while researching further ways to promote and maintain healthy aging. These goals would require large resource commitments from nations around the globe, but they would ultimately lead to a healthier, happier global community.

To develop elder-friendly environments, countries like the U.S., for instance, would have to work on their public transportation and accessibility infrastructures; seniors in the U.S. can often become isolated when they can no longer drive. The WHO’s goal is to create nations where seniors can easily experience and enjoy their communities, interacting with those around them even if they don’t have a driver’s license.

Developing a senior-oriented health care system is another excellent goal, as senior health care will become even more of a national issue in the coming years. Focusing on developing technologies that will aid seniors with wellness checks, medication management, and mobility issues are excellent ways to get seniors their necessary and appropriate care.

Whether you’re a senior or are providing care for a senior, it is clear that the offer of these crucial solutions for seniors’ health care cannot be ignored. The senior population will increase dramatically in the next 20 years, and we as a global community need to be prepared.

Elder Orphans Plan

Americans are getting older. It’s a great thing. The CDC estimates that the number of Americans who will live to be over 100 years old has grown 44 percent from 2000 to 2014. With the baby boomers aging into their senior years, this means that there will be an unprecedented boom in the senior population of the country.

While it’s wonderful that our population is living longer, there are some unexpected issues that come with aging. One of the biggest concerns facing seniors is how to plan for caregiving if they are Elder Orphans. Defined as a senior who either has no family that can help with their caregiving, or no one able to aid them, Elder Orphans are a growing segment of the senior population. This year, the number of Elder Orphans in the senior community has grown to nearly a quarter.

If you find yourself to be an Elder Orphan, there’s no need to panic, just plan.

The biggest concern for those who do not have family or friends to care for them is finances. Elder Orphans should work with a financial advisor to cultivate savings that will help them in case of medical emergencies. It is also essential that any living space is senior-friendly. If you’re planning on aging-in-place, that may mean renovations to your home including chair lifts and better lighting. It could also mean investigating local senior living communities to determine if that is a more budget friendly option.

Another issue facing Elder Orphans is isolation. Those without family to check on them can sometimes feel that they’ve grown isolated. This can lead to feelings of depression and also declining mental faculties. It is imperative that seniors keep and maintain social connections. This is especially important for Elder Orphans who don’t have family to rely upon for interaction. Be sure to cultivate a strong friend group and meet with each other at least once a week for a fun activity.

Though being an Elder Orphan requires a bit of extra planning, there’s no reason it can’t lead to a fulfilling life. If you’re aging and alone, plan ahead for a successful life as a single senior.