Focusing on Mental Health of Older Adults

Focusing on Mental Health of Older Adults

The holidays are a time of families gathering together to celebrate and to discuss issues of importance to everyone, including older members of the family. Often, family members who are visiting will notice physical and/or cognitive health issues in their parents or older relatives.

In recent surveys of people over the age of 50, worry about the ability to stay mentally sharp is consistently ranked among the top concerns. In a 2011 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 13 percent of respondents, age 60 and older, reported increased confusion and memory loss in the preceding 12 months, and of that number, over 35 percent said they experienced functional difficulties that might require services and supports now or in the future.

So, what can you do to promote brain health, during the holiday season and all year round? Here are some tips from the Eldercare Locator:

Eat Right: Try to maintain a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats (including fish and poultry) and low-fat or non-fat dairy products. Monitor your intake of solid fat, sugar and salt, and eat proper portion sizes.

Get Moving: Being physically active may help reduce the risk of conditions that can harm brain health, such as diabetes, heart disease, depression and stroke; it may also help improve connections among your brain cells. Older adults should get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.

Drink Moderately, If At All: Staying away from alcohol can reverse some negative changes related to brain health.

Think and Connect: Keep your mind active by doing mentally stimulating activities like reading, playing games, learning new things, teaching or taking a class and being social.