"Those… who allege that old age is devoid of useful activity… are like those who would say that the pilot does nothing in the sailing of his ship, because, while others are climbing the masts, or running about the gangways, or working at the pumps, he sits quietly in the stern and simply holds the tiller. He may not be doing what younger members of the crew are doing, but what he does is better and much more important. It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not … poorer, but is even richer."
From "Cicero, On Old Age."
Cicero's De Senectute (on Old Age), translated with introduction and notes by Andrew P. Peabody (Leopold Classic Library, 2015).
Although scientists are working to find the cause of Alzheimer’s Disease and eventually a cure and/or preventive strategy, there is little focus on taking proactive measures to protect our brains. At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in August, Dr. Lon Schneider, professor at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, urged a proactive approach, as one-third of dementias can be prevented through lifestyle changes. Here are some of the recommendations:
1. Take care of your health. The brain is connected to the rest of the body! Maintain a healthy weight, get diagnostics on time, adhere to eating nutritious food by making every calorie count, maintain oral health, take medicines as prescribed, and get lots of sleep.
2. Sitting. I covered this topic here in the AgeDoc blog in March of 2015. Studies show that too much sitting is actually dangerous. Not only does it compress vital organs, but it impairs circulation. What is “too much?” Sitting for 8-12 hours is harmful, and the recommended maximum amount daily is about 4-5 hours. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle, exercise regularly, and take frequent walking or standing breaks.
3. Avoid Social Isolation. Recent studies found that social isolation is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day! Social isolation increases inflammation and brain imaging showed that loneliness “causes a reaction in the same area of the brain as physical pain” (IlluminAge, 2017, p. 2).
4. Sleep. Older adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep. During sleep, the brain logs memories and experiences from the previous day and the brain is cleaned of toxins. Sleep deprivation may be a fall hazard and can lead to accidents. For more information on the importance of sleep, see these articles here in the blog: Sleeping Position and Brain Waste Removal, 10/18/13; Sleep and Obesity Prevention, 8/19/13; Older Adults and Sleep Deprivation, 1/2/16.
5. Air pollution. According to the American Heart Association, people living in geographical regions with poor air quality score lower on thinking and memory assessments. In areas with high pollution, avoid exposure on days when the levels are high. Even if you reside in an area without any pollution, take precautions when in heavy traffic to avoid exhaust from cars by using the “recirculate” function. As I reported here in the blog on 11/5/2010, Environmental Threats to Health Aging, Mexico City is one of the most polluted cities in the world. There, autopsies of children showed plaques and tangles in their brains. I have since learned that in Mexico City, plaques and tangles have been identified in the brains of dogs, adolescents, and young adults as well. While this does not prove cause/effect, it suggests a link to pollution and brain health.
The five listed in this posting were acquired from the September-October 2017 Aging in Stride, a publication from IlluminAge Corporation. For the entire list of the twelve enemies of brain health, please access this informative article:
Frauds that made the Senate aging committee's 2017 rankings include:
• Sweepstakes scams, run by perpetrators who contact victims by phone, tell them they have won a financial prize, and then require advance payment of a fee to collect the purported winnings.
• Robocalls, using advanced electronic technology that enable would-be scammers to maximize the number of potential victims reached.
• Computer scams a fraud in which callers impersonate representatives of well-known technology companies and convince victims to allow remote access to their home computers to check for problems. The scammers then charge fees to remove purported electronic viruses.
• Elder financial abuse, in some cases involving relatives or friends who gain access to victims' identification data, bank accounts or other records.
• Grandparent scams, a con game in which fraudsters phone with phony claims that a grandchild is in trouble and needs help paying a hospital bill, returning home from overseas or gaining release from jail.
FBI, Scams and Safety
In fact, seniors lose billions of dollars a year to home repair scams, investment scams, IRS scams and various other cons targeting older people. The FBI’s Common Fraud Schemes webpage provides tips on how you can protect yourself and your family from fraud. Senior citizens especially should be aware of fraud schemes for the following reasons:
· Senior citizens are most likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit—all of which make them attractive to con artists. People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it's hard or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone.
· Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they do not know whom to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed. Senior victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their financial affairs.
· When an older victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses. Con artists know the effects of age on memory, and they are counting on older victims not being able to supply enough detailed information to investigators. Also, the victims’ realization that they have been swindled may take weeks—or more likely, months—after contact with the fraudster. This extended time frame makes it even harder to remember details from the events.
· Senior citizens are more interested in and susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties, and so on. In a country where new cures and vaccinations for old diseases have given every American hope for a long and fruitful life, it is not so unbelievable that the con artists’ products can do what they claim.
NCOA [National Council on Aging]
Financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they are now considered “the crime of the 21st century.” Why? Because seniors are thought to have a significant amount of money sitting in their accounts.
Financial scams also often go unreported or can be difficult to prosecute, so they are considered a “low-risk” crime. However, they are devastating to many older adults and can leave them in a very vulnerable position with little time to recoup their losses.
It is not just wealthy seniors who are targeted. Low-income older adults are also at risk of financial abuse. Moreover, it is not always strangers who perpetrate these crimes. Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by an older person’s family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others.
1. Medicare/Health insurance scams
Every U.S. citizen or permanent resident over age 65 qualifies for Medicare, so there is rarely any need for a scam artist to research what private health insurance company older people have to scam them out of some money.
In these types of scams, perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative to get older people to give them their personal information, or they will provide bogus services for older adults at makeshift mobile clinics, then use the personal information they provide to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
2. Counterfeit prescription drugs
Most commonly, counterfeit drug scams operate on the Internet, where seniors increasingly go to find better prices on specialized medications. This scam is growing in popularity—since 2000, the FDA has investigated an average of 20 such cases per year, up from five a year in the 1990s. The danger is that besides paying money for something that will not help a person’s medical condition, victims may purchase unsafe substances that can inflict even more harm. This scam can be as hard on the body as it is on the wallet.
3. Funeral and Cemetery scams
The FBI warns about two types of funeral and cemetery fraud perpetrated on seniors.
In one approach, scammers read obituaries and call or attend the funeral service of a complete stranger to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower. Claiming the deceased had an outstanding debt with them, scammers will try to extort money from relatives to settle the fake debts.
Another tactic of disreputable funeral homes is to capitalize on family members’ unfamiliarity with the considerable cost of funeral services to add unnecessary charges to the bill. In one common scam of this type, funeral directors will insist that a casket, usually one of the most expensive parts of funeral services, is necessary even when performing a direct cremation, which can be accomplished with a cardboard casket rather than an expensive display or burial casket.
In early 2017, NCOA warned of three new scams that were prevalent:
Mass mailing fraud: The U.S. Department of Justice has seen a spike in mass mailing fraud targeted at the senior citizens. This scam involves personalized, sometimes “registered” letters in your mailbox that appears to indicate you have won a sizable prize and just need to pay a small processing fee for it to be sent to you.
Older Americans have lost millions of dollars in this scam, and unfortunately, responding to such a letter targets the person for future fraudulent mailings.
Two types of IRS scams have been making the rounds in the past year:
• Fake notices that claim you owe money as a result of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). These are especially tricky, says the Federal Trade Commission, because their design mimics the real IRS notices.
• Automated calls from the IRS claiming that you owe back taxes, and requesting you pay via gift card. Sometimes these fake IRS calls are not automated, but rather a live person calling from a Washington, DC area code (202) using high-pressure scare tactics to get your money (for example, saying the police are coming to arrest you for not paying your taxes). There are several red flags and tips to know whether you are dealing with the real IRS vs. a scammer:
o The IRS never initiates contact with you via phone call, email, or through social media.
o The IRS cannot threaten to have you arrested or deported for not paying.
o You will never be asked to pay using a gift card, pre-paid debit card, or wire transfer; the IRS also never takes credit/debit card information over the phone.
o If you owe the IRS back taxes, you will always have the opportunity to question or appeal the amount.
o Dubbed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration as the most pervasive impersonation fraud in IRS history, the swindle involves suspected scammers based in the U.S. and India who telephone Americans and threaten arrests unless purported tax debts are not paid immediately. At least 1.97 million people have been targeted, with as many as 200 victimized per week during the scam's peak last year, according to the inspector general.
Back or Knee Brace Post Card:
You receive a colorful postcard stating that the sender has been trying to contact you about ordering a Medicare-covered back or knee brace. All they need is for you to send your Medicare information. What’s to lose? This scam is particularly insidious, because you may actually receive something in the mail, usually a Velcro-style band for your back or knee. The scammer then bills Medicare for a device worth hundreds or thousands of dollars more than the one you received. Moreover, armed with your Medicare information, they can continue to bill Medicare for services not rendered. Medicare has strict coverage rules for its services and supplies, and it pays to keep these tips in mind:
• Never respond to open solicitations for Medicare-covered supplies/services.
• Only provide your Medicare number to health care providers or facilities at the time you are actively seeking service.
• Carefully monitor your Medicare statements for any claims for services or supplies billed to you which you did not receive. You can set up an account at MyMedicare.gov and access your claim information online anytime.
Malnutrition among older adults is increasing worldwide and is a major public health issue. Researchers estimate that about one-third of older adults are malnourished, and one-half are at risk for nutrition, leading to serious health declines, diminished quality of life, and mortality. Consequences of malnutrition include cognitive decline, sarcopenia [muscle wasting], anemia, poor wound healing, impaired immunity, and decreased bone mass (Amarya et al., 2015). Annually, malnutrition among older adults costs $51. Billion to treat diseases related to it (Aging Today, 2017). Malnutrition is prevalent among overweight, obese, thin, and healthy looking older adults, and from all socioeconomic groups. The purpose of this posting is to provide awareness of the importance of nutritional screening and to eat a balanced diet to avoid malnutrition.
Malnutrition is defined as an imbalance of nutrients as the result of ingesting foods low in nutrients or not eating a balanced diet to maintain optimum health. Some signs of malnutrition among older adults are muscle weakness, fatigue, increased illness, infection, confusion, and feeling irritable.
Causes of malnutrition include limited income, trouble swallowing and chewing, poor dental health, poor appetite, taste disturbances, living alone, bereavement, lack of mobility, pricey medications, living in a food desert [more than 7 miles from a grocery store], and inability to prepare food. Older adults who live too far from grocery stores may resort to shopping for groceries in mini-marts and gas stations, resulting in a diet lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables. Older adults have diminished tongue sensors, and therefore do not realize that food is salty. Diminished taste receptors result in “normal” foods that taste bland. Hot dogs and canned soup are the two foods most eaten by older adults. Why? Hot dogs are cheap and easy to cook in the microwave. Canned soup is also cheap, and most have pop lids and can be heated in the microwave. Unfortunately, hot dogs and canned soup are loaded with sodium, and a steady diet of soup and hot dogs may lead to malnutrition and excessive sodium intake.
Community advocacy using a multidisciplinary approach has shown to increase awareness and create solutions and promote policy change (Aging Today, 2017). One solution to address food insufficiency caused by poverty is the SNAP Program, which is an acronym for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as “food stamps.” For older adults who meet the threshold, a credit card is provided to help pay for food. Gone is the “shame” factor, as paying for groceries with a credit card is commonplace. In Alabama, a one-person household qualifies with an annual income of $15, and for a two-person household, $20k qualifies. More information about this program is available on the AL.gov website. Another strategy for combating malnutrition is funded by the Older American’s Act of 1965. Hot noon meals are served five days per week at senior and community centers throughout the United States. In Limestone County, there are five nutrition centers, and in Madison County, there are six centers. There, seniors gather to share a nutritious and healthy noon meal. An added benefit is social interaction, which may alleviate social isolation so common among older adults.
Screening for nutritional status is another way to reduce malnutrition. For professionals, the Mini Nutritional Assessment [MNA] or the short form [MNA-SF] from the Nestle Nutrition Institute are two accepted screening for determining malnutrition among older adults. In the community, I use the Nestle MNA or the MNA-SF for assessing nutritional status.
There are several screening tools including the Nutritional Risk Index (NRI), Geriatric Nutritional Risk Index (GNRI), Subjective Global Assessment (SGA), Mini Nutritional Assessment Screening Form (MNA-SF), Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST) and Nutritional Risk Screening 2002 (NRS 2002). While the MUST screening has been shown to have the highest reliability, it is most often administered upon hospital admission (Poulia et al., 2012).
Aging Today (2017), American Society on Aging, 25(5), p. 1, 14. San Francisco, CA.
Poulia, K., Yannakoulia, M., Karageorgou, D., Gamalestou, M., Panagiotakos, D.B., Sipsas, N.V., & Zampelas, A. (2012). Evaluation of the efficacy of six nutritional screening tools to predict malnutrition in the elderly. Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 31(3), 378-385.
Hi Readers, as I shared in my previous blog posting, 90% of older adults DO NOT have Alzheimer’s Disease [AD], yet AD gets enormous media attention and older adults are overly concerned about it, sometimes ignoring other more pressing health matters. The CDC (2016) has identified the leading causes of death in older adults in this order, indicating that heart disease and cancer are by far more prevalent than AD:
“Heart disease 507,138k
Malignant neoplasms [Cancer] 419.389k
Chronic lower respiratory diseases 131,804k
Cerebrovascular diseases 120,156k
Alzheimer’s disease 109,495k” (CDC, 2016, p. 133)
Hidden within these statistics is the issue of overweight and obesity among older adults. Among adults, BMI of 18.5-24.9 is normal, 25-29.9 is overweight, and 30+ is obese (CDC, 2016). Obesity is defined as, “an unhealthy excess of body fat, which increases the risk of medical illness and premature mortality” (Amarya, Singh, & Sabharwal, 2014, p. 63). According to the CDC (2016), there are three subcategories of obesity, as shown below:
· “Class 1: BMI of 30 to 34.9
· Class 2: BMI of 35 to 39.9
· Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher. Class 3 obesity is sometimes categorized as “extreme” or “severe” obesity” (para. 4).
While there have been some recent studies linking overweight and longer life among older adults, those findings are disputed. What we DO know and agree on is that OBESITY among older adults may lead to declining health status, increased health care spending, chronic morbidities [hypertension and stroke, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, urinary incontinence, and cancer], leading to loss of mobility, dependence, institutionalization, and early death (Amarya et al., p. 63). About 35% of older adults are obese, making this a major health crisis far more prevalent than Alzheimer’s Disease. Sadly, many of my clients who have sought advice on preventing and delaying Alzheimer’s Disease have been obese. In counseling older clients, practitioners must sometimes tell them what they do not want to hear, that obesity is the problem and not Alzheimer’s Disease.
A former client, age 75, laughed at me when at the end of our talk about retaining independence and healthy aging, I spoke to her about obesity, as “Helen” was at least 100 pounds overweight [Class 3 Obesity BMI] and sedentary. “I am the healthiest fat person you have ever known” was her response, and then she told me about participating in water aerobics three times per week. I reminded Helen that she had recurring congestive heart failure, hypertension, and arthritis, and that she was at risk of having a major health event and loss of independence if she did not take steps to lose weight and make some lifestyle changes. Because Helen was trying to decide on moving to assisted living or remain at home, I recommended finding a suitable assisted living soon and prepare her house for sale as proactive strategies. Helen disagreed with my assessments and huffed out of the office.
Sadly, Helen’s son phoned me about six months later and told me that his mother had a massive stroke and could not speak, suffered short-term memory loss, and she was moved to an assisted living facility with 24/7 supervision on the West Coast near her children. He and his four siblings were disposing of her home and personal belongings, as the prognosis was bleak. A year later, “Roger” phoned to tell me that Helen’s health status had declined and she died in a nursing home.
Although I could not convince Helen to change her habits toward a healthier lifestyle, and she got angry with me, I did everything I could as a gerontologist to give her professional and honest advice toward maintaining her independence and optimum aging. This is an example of always telling clients the truth, although it may not be accepted.
Amarya, S., Singh, K., & Sabharwal, M. (2014). Health consequences of obesity in the elderly. Journal of Clinical Gerontology and Geriatrics, 5(3), 63-67. doi:10.1016/j.jcgg.2014.01.004
The United States Census (2017) indicates our population is 323,127,513. Of that, 15.2% are older adults, which means there are approximately 47m Americans age 65 and over.
Of that 47m, 5.1m or approximately 11% have been diagnosed with AD (Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, 2017). Of that 5.1m, 5% or 255k have been misdiagnosed with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (National Hydrocephalus Foundation, 2014), a treatable and reversible condition that has symptoms similar to AD including dementia, gait changes, balance difficulties, and urinary incontinence. This means that about 90% of older adults do NOT have AD.
Further, the CDC (2016) has identified the leading causes of death in older adults in this order, indicating that heart disease and cancer are by far more prevalent than AD. Any headline with "Alzheimer's" gets attention and yet, these are scare tactics and sensationalism. Almost FIVE TIMES more older adults die every year from heart disease, yet "Heart Disease" in a headline gets few readers. Please do not adopt the "Chicken Little" approach to Alzheimer's. Here are the FACTS. Leading causes of death in 2016 were:
“Heart disease 507,138k
Malignant neoplasms [Cancer] 419.389k
Chronic lower respiratory diseases 131,804k
Cerebrovascular diseases 120,156k
Alzheimer’s disease 109,495k” (CDC, 2016, p. 133).
Amarya, S., Singh, K., & Sabharwal, M. (2014). Health consequences of obesity in the elderly. Journal of Clinical Gerontology and Geriatrics, 5(3), 63-67. doi:10.1016/j.jcgg.2014.01.004
On 7 June 2017, USA Today featured on page one the headline, “Even moderate drinking is bad for the brain.” On 23 June, The Week magazine had an article in the section, “Health Scare of the Week,” titled, “Drinking Speeds Mental Decline.” Both headlines were not truthful, although the content within the articles was accurate, as I found when I accessed the actual journal article. As my readers know, I dislike newspapers practicing this tactic, as it sensationalizes and cheapens the story.
First, what is “moderate drinking?” It depends on where you live, as the guidelines vary by country and the UK recommends lower amount for women than in the USA (IARD, 2017). In the USA, both the NIH (n.d.) and CDC (2016) define moderate drinking it as one drink per day for women/two per day for men. Portion sizes are 5 oz. Wine, 1.5 oz distilled liquor, or 12 oz regular beer [not malt liquor].
Both articles featured a recent study published in the British Medical Journal [BMJ] regarding alcohol and older adults. Anya Topiwals, who was the primary investigator, wanted to know if moderate alcohol consumption was beneficial to brain health or detrimental. They examined 30 years of records of 527 British civil servants starting at age 43. The moderate drinkers, defined as consuming 8-12 glasses of wine, beer, or liquor weekly, showed brain structure changes in their MRIs. Topiwala et al. (2017) found that higher alcohol use was associated with reduced gray matter density, hippocampal atrophy, and reduced white matter microstructural integrity. The researchers found that drinking alcohol, even in small amounts, may not be beneficial to good brain health as reported in previous studies. The study was an observational design, and therefore, no cause/effect can be proven. So the claim cannot be made that moderate drinking destroys the brain. There were many other confounding variables that could explain the brain shrinkage beyond alcohol consumption. The researchers recommended that people NOT take up drinking for healthy aging. They also cautioned that other factors unrelated to alcohol may explain the brain changes.
Conversely, some studies have shown a positive connection between light and moderate alcohol consumption and healthy aging. In 2014, scientists from the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University in Sweden, led by primary investigator P. S. Hogenkamp, examined whether alcohol intake at age 70 is linked to cognitive [brain] functioning. The participants were 652 men who were assessed at age 70 and 77 and tested to see if drinking impacted performance on assessments of executive functioning. They found that moderate drinking among the older Swedish men did impact cognitive performance on the brain performance assessments: They performed better than the abstainers and the heavy drinkers! They also cautioned that although these findings do not show cause and effect, Hogenkamp et al. (2013) do not support the view that people should consume moderate amounts of alcohol to slow cognitive decline because other factors may explain their findings.
Another study conducted in 2017 found light alcohol consumption may be beneficial for heart health. In a recent research study carried out in Sweden, scientists Susanna C. Larsson, Alice Wallin, and Alicia Wolk wanted to review the scholarly literature to determine if there is an association between alcohol consumption and risk of heart failure. They carefully analyzed previous scientific studies to learn more about the impact of alcohol on aging. Larsson et al. (2017) reviewed 13 different studies that included almost 14,000 cases and 356,000 participants, one of the most comprehensive meta-analysis on the topic to date. After analyzing the literature and findings, Larsson et al. (2017) determined that light alcohol drinking [up to one drink per day] was associated with a lower risk of heart failure. The Larsson et al. (2017) has a high rate of validity due to the large volume of previous research evaluated by the team.
Is light or moderate drinking acceptable for optimum aging? Should it be avoided altogether, or are there benefits and protective factors? The experts cannot decide.
Hogenkamp, P. S., Benedict, C., Sjögren, P., Kilander, L., Lind, L., & Schiöth, H. B. (2014). Late-life alcohol consumption and cognitive function in elderly men. Age (Dordrecht, Netherlands), 36(1), 243-249. doi:10.1007/s11357-013-9538-7
Larsson, S. C., Wallin, A., & Wolk, A. (2017). Alcohol consumption and risk of heart failure: Meta-analysis of 13 prospective studies. Clinical Nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland),doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2017.05.007
Puzzles and games do not make people smarter, maintain cognitive functioning, or prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. It is a myth perpetuated by companies trying to sell false hope and make money prying on vulnerable people. Research trumps scare tactics. See the facts below. AgeDoc
Think brain games make you smarter? Think again, researchers say
New study finds no evidence games increase overall cognitive abilities
Date: April 17, 2017
Source: Florida State University
Summary: Brain games marketed by the billion-dollar brain-training industry don't improve cognition or help prevent age-related brain decline, new research finds.
Be skeptical of ads declaring you can rev up your brain's performance by challenging it with products from the growing brain-training industry.
Science does not support many of the claims.
That's according to a new study published in the science journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience from a team of Florida State University researchers.
Neil Charness, professor of psychology and a leading authority on aging and cognition, teamed up with Wally Boot, associate professor of psychology, and graduate student Dustin Souders to test the theory that brain games help preserve cognitive function.
"Our findings and previous studies confirm there's very little evidence these types of games can improve your life in a meaningful way," said Boot, an expert on age-related cognitive decline.
Charness, who's also the director of FSU's Institute for Successful Longevity, said an increasing number of people believe brain training helps protect them against memory loss or cognitive disorders.
"Brain challenges like crossword games are a popular approach, especially among baby boomers, as a way to try to protect cognition," Charness said.
That popularity has turned the brain-training industry into a billion-dollar business. Brain games are available online and through mobile apps that typically sell for about $15 a month or $300 for lifetime memberships. But advertising for this rapidly growing business sector has sometimes used inflated claims. The Federal Trade Commission fined one brain-training company $50 million for false advertising, which was later lowered to $2 million.
"More companies are beginning to be fined for these types of inflated claims and that's a good thing," Boot said. "These exaggerated claims are not consistent with the conclusions of our latest study."
The FSU team's study focused on whether brain games could boost the "working memory" needed for a variety of tasks. In their study, they set up one group of people to play a specially designed brain-training video game called "Mind Frontiers," while another group of players performed crossword games or number puzzles.
All players were given lots of information they needed to juggle to solve problems. Researchers tested whether the games enhanced players' working memory and consequently improved other mental abilities, such as reasoning, memory and processing speed.
That's the theory behind many brain games: If you improve overall working memory, which is fundamental to so much of what we do every day, then you can enhance performance in many areas of your life.
The team examined whether improving working memory would translate to better performance on other tasks or as the researchers called it: "far transfer."
In short, no.
"It's possible to train people to become very good at tasks that you would normally consider general working memory tasks: memorizing 70, 80, even 100 digits," Charness said. "But these skills tend to be very specific and not show a lot of transfer. The thing that seniors in particular should be concerned about is, if I can get very good at crossword puzzles, is that going to help me remember where my keys are? And the answer is probably no."
Charness has spent much of his career the past 45 years trying to wrap his brain around the way the mind functions and how it ages. With the senior population continuing to grow -- 45 million Americans are 65 or older -- Charness understands their concerns about preserving brain function and remaining independent.
"People have real concerns about loss of cognition and loss of memory as they age, so they do all kinds of things to try to stave off cognitive decline," Charness said.
Charness noted that other research finds aerobic exercise, rather than mental exercise, is great for your brain. Physical exercise can actually cause beneficial structural changes in the brain and boost its function. He predicts "exer-gaming," which combines exercise with brain games, will increase in popularity in the 21st century.
"I wouldn't come away from our article totally discouraged," Charness said. "It's another piece of the puzzle that we're all trying to assemble. It's discouraging in the sense that we can't find far transfer and that seems to be a fairly consistent finding in research. But if your real goal is to improve cognitive function and brain games are not helping, then maybe you are better off getting aerobic exercise rather than sitting in front of the computer playing these games."
Florida State University. (2017, April 17). Think brain games make you smarter? Think again, researchers say: New study finds no evidence games increase overall cognitive abilities. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 17, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170417095528.htm
Hi readers, today I had the pleasure of meeting caregiving expert Dr. Warren Hebert. Hebert, who is an assistant professor in the School of Nursing at Loyola University New Orleans, is a compassionate and knowledgeable authority on caregiving. From our conversation, I was impressed with his passion and understanding of the challenges faced by caregivers. We also discussed caregiving attitudes and expectations cross-culturally and how caregiving is approached in various global cultures and within ethnic groups in America. We also talked about caregiver burnout and exhaustion. Of course, we also examined the benefits, advantages, and joys of caring for loved ones.
With a focus on general audiences, Dr. Hebert's radio program is a must for caregivers, scholars, clergy, counselors, and anyone interested in how families care for loved ones when they need help. Below is the link to his radio show at Radio Maria. It is live every Wednesday from 4-5 pm Central Time. Not available at that time? No problem. By clicking this link, achieves of past shows are also available. I believe anyone interested in caregiving will benefit from Dr. Hebert’s pearls of wisdom. I hope you find this resource valuable! AgeDoc