hands holding playing cards

When someone asks you to think about health, wellness and fitness, you usually think about physical health, exercise or nutrition. Throughout a person’s lifetime, they should not only concentrate on improving and maintaining their physical health, but also be working on their cognitive or brain health. Since this is Brain Health Awareness Week, I would like to share a few things you can do to maintain a healthy brain. Getting enough good, quality sleep is important along with eating a heart healthy diet and exercising regularly.

older woman smiling

Resilience:  the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth. The good news is that resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have.

woman smiling

I am concerned for the older population right now. Data has shown that older adults are more vulnerable in this pandemic due to their weaker immune systems and higher likelihood of having chronic conditions including heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease and many others. The CDC reports 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have been adults 65 years of age and older. This has prompted the encouragement of older adults to self-quarantine, or physical distance from others - family, friends, social circles - to protect their health.

colored pencils and book

Another great suggestion for practicing mindfulness for this Mindful May is coloring! Well-known psychiatrist Carl Jung first recognized the benefits of coloring back in the early 20th century. Recently we have seen a rise in the availability and popularity of coloring books for adults. Adult coloring books often have more intricate patterns and designs where drawing skills aren’t necessary. However, it doesn't matter what you are coloring - whether it is a children’s or adult’s coloring book – it can be beneficial.

man with hat on smiling

We traditionally celebrate Older Americans Month (OAM) each May. When OAM was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. By 2017, around 47 million had reached that milestone. Why not observe our older population with this year’s theme of “Make Your Mark?” Around the nation, older adults make their marks every day as volunteers, employees, employers, parents, grandparents, mentors and advocates. They offer their time, talents and experience to the benefit of our communities.

person reading book and drinking coffee

There are over 34 million people in the US that provide care for someone over the age of 50. Although there tends to be an average profile for caregivers, their population is greatly diverse representing both genders and all races, cultures and ages. However, the majority of caregivers give of themselves without expecting anything in return, and they rarely think of themselves first. Caregiving is a rewarding experience for most, but also has many challenges and burdens that cause great amounts of stress. 

It is safe to assume that many adults today remember being told at one time or another by their disciplining parents, “You are grounded and are not to leave the house.” This typically meant separation from friends, playing outside, and taking part in planned activities. Even if it’s been a while since the age of being grounded, the social distancing plan underway may bring back feelings of “having one’s wings clipped.”

Two older friends

I recently found this article on the National Institute on Aging website that reinforces a topic of my programming lately – that socialization or social engagement is beneficial for brain health and longevity. I have been focusing on the effects practiced in later life but this article expands that to midlife, so I would like to share it with all of you:

older man pushing older woman in wheelchair

We all know someone who is providing care for someone else. They may be caring for an older parent, a disabled adult child, or a spouse suffering from a traumatic injury or chronic illness. Even parents raising children are considered caregivers. Caregivers give of themselves without expecting anything in return, and they rarely think of themselves first.

Scam signs

You may get a call from the “police” saying your grandchild is in jail and needs a certain amount of money to be released. Or a call from “Microsoft” telling you that your computer has a virus and they need remote access to it so they can fix it. Or you are contacted by your “bank” saying there was an issue with your account and they want to help you resolve it, but first, they need your account number. Do any of these sound familiar?

It's happening more and more. You are driving along and the car you are meeting is slowly drifting into your lane only to be jerked back suddenly – and you see that the driver is busy looking down at their phone rather than the road. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention away from the primary task of driving and can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash. I came across this article by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, and thought it important to share:

I have always been an outdoorsy nature person. When I was a kid, I spent most of my time outside – my parents had the hardest time getting me to come back inside at the end of the day. My love of nature continues, and I will share my passion for it with anyone who will listen! I am always dragging my family to state parks, zoos, and botanical gardens. But times are changing drastically, with the popularization of technology, along with urbanization, and people spend way less time outdoors and around nature.

There are many types of dementia, with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) being the most common, accounting for 60-80% of all cases of dementia. Although the biggest risk factor is increasing age, Alzheimer's and other dementias are not a normal process of aging. AD in particular can be difficult to clearly diagnose, and while researchers are discovering more ways like brain imaging and genetic testing to assist with diagnosis, there is still no single test. To date, there is also no cure for AD, but current treatments can lessen the symptoms and improve quality of life.

Last month I attended the Healthy Brain Aging Risk and Prevention Conference sponsored by Southern Illinois University (SIU) Medicine and their Neuroscience Institute. Conferences and workshops like this one is a great way to get the latest information so I can pass it on to you!! One of the featured speakers Dr. Mehul Trivedi, assistant professor of the Department of Psychiatry at the SIU School of Medicine shared with us that the risk factors for Alzheimer's Disease (AD) that we have no control over are increasing age, family history, and genetics.

We traditionally celebrate Older Americans Month each May. When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. By 2017, around 47 million had reached that milestone.

Since Older American's Month is coming up in May, wouldn't it be great to get our younger generations involved with our older generations in fun and meaningful ways? When children, teens and younger adults spend time with older adults, there are many benefits to everyone involved. Older adults can be great role models for children, while also passing on family stories, historical information and teaching the rituals and traditions of earlier times.

September is Fall Prevention Month

Falls are not a normal part of aging, but they are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. That is why University of Illinois Extension is partnering with the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and the Falls Free® Coalition to celebrate Falls Prevention Awareness Day on September 22 and all September long.

After being stuck inside from a bad winter, we often say things like, "I'm suffering from cabin fever", or after being inside all day we might say, "I need some fresh air." As usual, there is some truth to these familiar sayings that we have heard passed down from generation to generation. I hope that with it being summer, we do not find ourselves saying them.

Have you ever known someone who seemed to go through very difficult times and left you wondering "how can they handle so much?" Resiliency is the ability to recover from life's challenges and hardships without being overwhelmed and to bounce forward rather than back. Families and individuals face many expected and unexpected challenges throughout life. Learning to cope with those challenges can be difficult, but there are certain characteristics that resilient people possess.