Seniors Wellness for Senior Brains
Should I be worried about Senior Wellness at age 61? According to my 10 year old son, I am to "oooooollllllldddddd" to worry about, until he needs money anyway, and my 5 year old daughter just wants to snuggle a bit, and my 45 year old wife appreciates alone time still, so I would say that wellness and health are very important to this Baby Boomer, and there is much good news on that front.
Ever heard of neurogenesis? That word describes the brain's ability to grow new brain cells every day.
Not too many years ago, no one knew that the human brain could do this, in fact neuroscientific dogma said that we were finished growing neurons and brain circuits early in life, and that what we could look forward to was the slow collapse of our cognitive abilities until the inevitable end.
Not true folks, you can work out your brain like your bicep and cement those new neurons into existing circuitry by taking care of what the writers are calling the pillars of brain fitness.
But before we discuss those pillars, we need to talk about the other capability of our brain, called neuroplasticity.
It turns out that our neurons enjoy connecting with one another in novel arrangements, which happens when I give my brain a novel learning experience, which is one of those pillars of brain fitness.
So Seniors Wellness involves something as simple as learning, which most of us have done all our lives?
Learning is important, because the brain will pare unused neurons and circuits, and that can be dangerous for my ability to ward of alzheimers disease.
The kind of learning which I see referred to most frequently as the best for neuroplasticity and neurogenesis is the learning involved in learning a new language, a new musical instrument, or from computerized brain fitness programs like the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program.
This kind of senior wellness learning must have a built in increasing challenge level, and provide successful learning experiences about 80% of the time for us to sustain interest.
What that means is that doing more sudoku or more cross word puzzles, or, in my case, more counseling books, does not provide a challenge as my brain knows how to do that.
Pillars of Brain Fitness
What are the other pillars of brain fitness for seniors wellness?
According to Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., the pillars of brain fitness for any age, but especially us Boomers and Beyond, are physical exercise, nutrition including lots of omega 3 fatty acid, stress management, sleep, and the aforementioned novel learning experience.
Sounds like the life style our grandmothers told us to follow when we were kids, doesn't it? Brainfit for Life is the title of Evans and Burghardt's work, which is written for the layperson, and their first recommendation is for physical activity/exercise.
If you are concerned that the physical activity required for neurogenesis and neuroplasticity involves expensive exercise club membership and flinging around heavy barbells, nothing could be further from the truth.
Evans and Burghardt say that we can start by increasing our level of physical activity or what we are already doing, like walking around the block in our neighborhood, and work up to something like what Scott and Angie Tousignant suggest in their home grown exercise model for couples.
If you click on that link, about half way down the page you are taken to, you will meet Bill and Pat who are in their 80's and began exercising to prepare for travel.
As you can see, they have adopted the Tousignant model to their own needs and style, with excellent wellness and brain fitness results.
Evans and Burghardt talk a great deal about the role of nutrition in brain fitness because the brain uses about 20% of the fuel we consume everyday, so it has to have a steady flow of the right kinds of nutrients constantly, and those nutrients need to include antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acid.
Because of the constant burning of fuel in the brain, there are some free radicals created which are the primary cause of aging and antioxidants will neutralize them.
So make yourself some smoothies with lots of blueberries in it to help your brain manage antioxidants.
Evans and Burghardt also emphasize the role of omega 3 fatty acid in seniors wellness, because the membranes of our neurons are mostly omega 3 fatty acid, which needs to be replenished or those membranes become brittle and communication between cells is garbled, which means we look and act confused rather than alert and vibrant.
The best source of omega 3 fatty acid is fish, which these days means you need to monitor mercury pollution.
I am not a big fish fan so I use supplementation which has also had the mercury processed out of it.
According to Evans and Burghardt many important processes happen for our brain fitness while we are asleep, and we should make sure to get the right amount of rest for us, because not enough sleep means we are going to be disoriented.
Stress management is an important part of seniors wellness, and we can manage that breath by breath if we have learned a mindfullness tool, and practice it, or heart beat by heart beat if we have learned Heartmath, which is a heart rate variability program I download to my computer, or you can even use the hand held emWave tool to learn how to control the time between heart beats.
I have been using and teaching Heartmath to my clients for about seven years, and I have not had one client fail to be amazed at seeing how fast their thinking impacts their physiology, and how fast arousal can become relaxation with a few practices.
The Sharp Brains folks recommend Heartmath as the top stress reduction product on the market today.
See Heartmath above.
Now we come to the novel learning experience section of seniors wellness, which means a challenging mental activity.
I am not sure about you, but I do not have time to learn a new language or a new instrument, so I am going to use the computerized brain fitness programs for my neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
The Posit Science Brain Fitness program has been recently tested in the IMPACT study done on some 500 folks all over the age of 65 years, I believe, and there are some astounding results for our seniors wellness.
I have been using the Posit Science Brain Fitness program for about a year, and it has really helped with my word recall.
I have used a couple of others also, and I have been impressed with how the Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro has improved my attention. If you saw my desk, you would know that I have an ADD style of attention and memory, and Mind Sparke helped with that.
For a quick brain brightener, you cannot go wrong with Lumosity. It is easy to build into your schedule so you can give quick regular attention to your brain.
So the keys to seniors wellness are to a large extent up to us. There are many new and powerful tools available for our use, and because or our numbers and economic clout, scientists and marketers will continue to develop tools for us. Stay tuned.
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