Home Instead Blog

I’m a 78-year-old woman of sound mind. I’m concerned because dementia runs in my family. Is there anything I can do to keep my mind sharp and alert?
Aug 03, 2011

It’s wonderful that you are in such good health, both mentally and physically.  And yes, according to recent research, there are many ways senior citizens can continue to stay on top of their game.  And it sounds as if you are already doing several of them.

A US study from Ohio State University has found that older people who exercise regularly are more likely to maintain brain function used for everyday tasks like following a recipe and keeping the pills they take straight.  The study, which examined the exercise habits of 28 people with chronic lung problems for more than a year, found that routine workouts helped stave off not only the physical effects of aging, but also the cognitive decline.  

Other studies have supported the theory that engaging in mentally stimulating activities can help keep your mind sharp.  For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in June of last year found that seniors aged 75 or older who participated at least twice weekly in reading, playing games (chess, backgammon or cards), playing musical instruments and dancing, were significantly less likely to develop dementia.

The study discovered that those who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a much lower risk of dementia than those who did one puzzle a week. One physical activity — ballroom dancing — had a significant impact, possibly because of the mental demands of remembering dance steps, responding to music and coordinating with a partner.


In a recent survey carried out by the Irish National Council on Ageing & Older People there is evidence to show that the relationship between healthy aging and regular exercise decreases not only physical ailments such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer of the colon but also depression and anxiety.


Companionship also seems to make a difference.  The report goes on to say that people who suffer social deprivation in old age such as isolation or minimal social contact, are at increased risk of chronic physical illness and mental decline thus prompting a negative pattern of aging.


If you can include friends and family in your activities, you will benefit from mental stimulation as well as fulfilling companionship.  For those whose friends and family live far away consider hiring a non-medical caregiver, such as someone who works for Home Instead Senior Care. The company’s CAREGivers are screened, trained, insured, and matched with clients who have similar interests   


For more information contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.