3 Simple Habits That Can Protect Your Brain From Cognitive Decline

You might think that the impact of aging on the brain is something you can’t do much about. After all, isn’t it an inevitability? To an extent, as we may not be able to rewind the clock and change our levels of higher education or intelligence (both factors that delay the onset of symptoms of aging).

But adopting specific lifestyle behaviors–whether you’re in your thirties or late forties–can have a tangible effect on how well you age. Even in your fifties and beyond, activities like learning a new language or musical instrument, taking part in aerobic exercise, and developing meaningful social relationships can do wonders for your brain. There’s no question that when we compromise on looking after ourselves, our aging minds pick up the tab.

The Aging Process and Cognitive Decline

Over time, there is a build-up of toxins such as tau proteins and beta-amyloid plaques in the brain that correlate to the aging process and associated cognitive decline. Although this is a natural part of growing older, many factors can exacerbate it. Stress, neurotoxins such as alcohol and lack of (quality and quantity) sleep can speed up the process.

Neuroplasticity–the function that allows the brain to change and develop in our lifetime–has three mechanisms: synaptic connection, myelination, and neurogenesis. The key to resilient aging is improving neurogenesis, the birth of new neurons. Neurogenesis happens far more in babies and children than adults.

A 2018 study by researchers at Columbia University shows that in adults, this type of neuroplastic activity occurs in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that lays down memories. This makes sense as we respond to and store new experiences every day, and cement them during sleep. The more we can experience new things, activities, people, places, and emotions, the more likely we are to encourage neurogenesis.

With all this in mind, we can come up with a three-point plan to encourage “resilient aging” by activating neurogenesis in the brain:

1. Get your heart rate up

Aerobic exercise such as running or brisk walking has a potentially massive impact on neurogenesis. A 2016 rat study found that endurance exercise was most effective in increasing neurogenesis. It wins out over HIIT sessions and resistance training, although doing a variety of exercise also has its benefits.

Aim to do aerobic exercise for 150 minutes per week, and choose the gym, the park, or natural landscape over busy roads to avoid compromising brain-derived neurotrophic factor production (BDNF), a growth factor that encourages neurogenesis that aerobic exercise can boost. However, exercising in polluted areas decreases production.

If exercising alone isn’t your thing, consider taking up a team sport or one with a social element like table tennis. Exposure to social interaction can also increase the neurogenesis, and in many instances, doing so lets you practice your hand-eye coordination, which research has suggested leads to structural changes in the brain that may relate to a range of cognitive benefit. This combination of coordination and socializing has been shown to increase brain thickness in the parts of the cortex related to social/emotional welfare, which is crucial as we age.

2. Change your eating patterns

Evidence shows that calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, and time-restricted eating encourage neurogenesis in humans. In rodent studies, intermittent fasting has been found to improve cognitive function and brain structure, and reduce symptoms of metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

Reducing refined sugar will help reduce oxidative damage to brain cells, too, and we know that increased oxidative damage has been linked with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Twenty-four hour water-only fasts have also been proven to increase longevity and encourage neurogenesis.

Try any of the following, after checking with your doctor:

  • 24-hour water-only fast once a month
  •  Reducing your calorie intake by 50%-60% on two non-consecutive days of the week for two to three months or on an ongoing basis
  • Reducing calories by 20% every day for two weeks. You can do this three to four times a year
  • Eating only between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. as a general rule

3. Prioritize sleep

Sleep helps promote the brain’s neural “cleaning” glymphatic system, which flushes out the build-up of age-related toxins in the brain (the tau proteins and beta amyloid plaques mentioned above). When people are sleep-deprived, we see evidence of memory deficits, and if you miss a whole night of sleep, research proves that it impacts IQ. Aim for seven to nine hours, and nap if it suits you. Our need to sleep decreases as we age.

Of course, there are individual exceptions, but having consistent sleep times and making sure you’re getting sufficient quality and length of sleep supports brain resilience over time. So how do you know if you’re getting enough? If you naturally wake up at the same time on weekends that you have to during the week, you probably are.

If you need to lie-in or take long naps, you’re probably not. Try practicing mindfulness or yoga nidra before bed at night, a guided breath-based meditation that has been shown in studies to improve sleep quality. There are plenty of recordings online if you want to experience it.

Pick any of the above that work for you and build it up until it becomes a habit, then move onto the next one and so on. You might find that by the end of the year, you’ll feel even healthier, more energized, and motivated than you do now, even as you turn another year older.

By: Fast Company / Tara Swart

Dr. Tara Swart is a neuroscientist, leadership coach, author, and medical doctor. Follow her on Twitter at @TaraSwart.

Source: Open-Your-Mind-Change

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Critics:

Cognitive deficit is an inclusive term to describe any characteristic that acts as a barrier to the cognition process.

The term may describe

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a neurocognitive disorder which involves cognitive impairments beyond those expected based on an individual’s age and education but which are not significant enough to interfere with instrumental activities of daily living. MCI may occur as a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease. It includes both memory and non-memory impairments.Mild cognitive impairment has been relisted as mild neurocognitive disorder in DSM-5, and in ICD-11.

The cause of the disorder remains unclear, as well as its prevention and treatment. MCI can present with a variety of symptoms, but is divided generally into two types.

Amnestic MCI (aMCI) is mild cognitive impairment with memory loss as the predominant symptom; aMCI is frequently seen as a prodromal stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies suggest that these individuals tend to progress to probable Alzheimer’s disease at a rate of approximately 10% to 15% per year.[needs update]It is possible that being diagnosed with cognitive decline may serve as an indicator of aMCI.

Nonamnestic MCI (naMCI) is mild cognitive impairment in which impairments in domains other than memory (for example, language, visuospatial, executive) are more prominent. It may be further divided as nonamnestic single- or multiple-domain MCI, and these individuals are believed to be more likely to convert to other dementias (for example, dementia with Lewy bodies).

See also

Aging is Inevitable Why Not Do It Joyfully? Here’s How

It was recently my birthday. It wasn’t a “big” birthday — one of those round-numbered ones that feels like a milestone — but nevertheless it got me thinking about aging.

When I was a kid, growing older felt like an achievement. Each year that passed marked one step closer to adulthood, which for me meant independence and freedom. I remember going to the city with my dad to see plays or go to the Met and seeing a group of women having lunch in a café. It seemed glamorous and exciting to be an adult. I couldn’t wait.

Likewise, I never quite understood the popular antipathy toward old age. At Spencer’s, a novelty store at the Galleria Mall in White Plains where my friends and I would find gag gifts, I was always perplexed by the section of “Over the Hill” merchandise. I mean, my grandparents didn’t listen to my music or play Nintendo with me, but they were cool in their own way — not crusty and out of touch like the caricatures suggested. The geezer jokes and “lying about your age” punchlines that adorned the mugs and t-shirts there seemed to come from another world, one that didn’t make sense to me.

In my 20s and 30s, friends would casually toss around the phrase “We’re so old!” I rolled my eyes. We were so young, I felt, and why should we waste that youth focused on what was already behind us? After all, right at that moment we were the youngest we would ever be.

My 20s were miles better than my teens — more expansive, less cloistered —  and my 30s better than my 20s. I became more confident in my 30s, I got into therapy and dealt with years of childhood trauma, I learned to communicate my needs and be more mindful of the needs of others. I wouldn’t trade the growth of these past decades for fewer lines on my face or grey hairs on my head.

Author Heather Havrilesky wrote: “Growing old gracefully really means either disappearing or sticking around but always lying straight to people’s faces about the strength of your feelings and desires.”

Now that I’m in my 40s, though, aging isn’t some future concept. Just being alive means growing older, so yes, we’ve all been aging since we were born. But at a certain point, the notion of what life will be like in a couple of decades starts to feel more real, and then I start to reflect more on what my current choices mean for that future me.

I look back and wonder what my work-hard-play-hard 20s mean for me now. Could I have had a healthier body today if I had been kinder to it when I was younger? And could being gentler now give me more joy and freedom in the future?

The dominant discourse on aging, especially when it comes to women, revolves around “aging gracefully.” This generally involves looking at least three to five years younger than you actually are, while not appearing to do anything to get that way. It also means “acting your age,” by wearing age-appropriate clothes (mini skirts have an expiration date, apparently), having age-appropriate hair and doing age-appropriate activities — but maybe doing one or two surprisingly youthful things (surfing, maybe, or tap dancing) that don’t seem like you’re trying too hard yet let people know you’re still in the game.

As author Heather Havrilesky writes in her biting essay on the topic, “I think about how growing old gracefully really means either disappearing or sticking around but always lying straight to people’s faces about the strength of your feelings and desires.”

The only way to age and be deemed acceptable is to have lucky genes or to conceal your battles against time underneath a practiced smile.

“Aging gracefully” entails walking a tightrope between a youth-obsessed society, which tells us that our value declines as we age, and a culture that says nothing is as uncool as desperation, the fervent desire for something we can’t have. Marketers stoke our desire for youthfulness as the ticket to remaining relevant, then shame us when our efforts to preserve that youth go awry.

So the person who ages without thought to their appearance is written off as “having given up,” and the one whose face remains 35 forever thanks to the surgeon’s knife is considered a joke, and the only way to be deemed acceptable is to have lucky genes or to conceal your battles against time underneath a practiced smile. It all sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

And so I’ve been thinking about how we move beyond this damaging — and frankly misogynistic — frame. What if instead of seeing aging as something to defeat and conquer, we were to embrace what gets better with age, and work to amplify these joys while mitigating the losses of youth? I’m not suggesting we paper over the very real challenges, both physical and mental, that come with aging. But can we view these challenges without judgment or shame and instead look for joyful ways to navigate them?

I delved into the research on aging, and here are 8 insights I’ve found that can help us think about joyful ways to feel well as we grow older.

1. Seek out awe 

In a study of older adults, researchers found that taking an “awe walk,” a walk specifically focused on attending to vast or inspiring things in the environment, increased joy and prosocial emotions (feelings like generosity and kindness) more than simply taking a stroll in nature. Interestingly, they also found that “smile intensity,” a measure of how much the participants smiled, increased over the eight-week duration of the study. These walks were only 15 minutes long, once a week, and are low impact, so this is an easy way to create more joy in daily life as we age.

Practiced joyspotters well know the power of attending to joyful stimuli in the environment to boost mood. This study suggests that tuning our attention specifically to things that invoke wonder and awe can have measurable benefits, especially for older adults.

2. Get a culture fix 

A 1996 study of more than 12,000 people Sweden found that attending cultural events correlated with increased survival, while people who rarely attended cultural events had a higher risk of mortality. Since then, a raft of studies (a good summary of them here) has affirmed that people who participate in social activities such as attending church, going to the movies, playing cards or bingo, or going to restaurants or sporting events is linked with decreased mortality among older adults.

One reason may be that these activities increase social connection, deepen relationships, and reinforce feelings of belonging, which are positively associated with well-being. Cultural activities also help keep the mind sharp. While the pandemic has made this one challenging, as things start to open up again, getting a culture fix can be an easy way to age joyfully.

Enriching your environment with color, art, plants and other sensorially stimulating elements may be a worthwhile investment not just for protecting your mind as you age, but also your joy.

3. Stimulate your senses

One of the most talked-about parts of my TED Talk is when I describe my experience spending a night at the wildly colorful Reversible Destiny Lofts, an apartment building designed by the artist Arakawa and the poet Madeline Gins, who believed it could reverse aging.

The idea that an apartment could reverse aging sounds farfetched, but it becomes more grounded when we look at the theory behind it. Arakawa and Gins believed that just as our muscles atrophy if we don’t exercise them, our cognitive capacity diminishes if we don’t stimulate our senses.

They looked at our beige, dull interiors and imagined that these spaces would make our minds wither. And as it turns out, some early research in animals (see also) suggests there might be something to this. When mice are placed in “enriched environments” with lots of sensorial stimuli and opportunities for physical movement, it mitigates neurological changes associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia. While there is some evidence to suggest that this might apply to humans as well, the mechanisms behind this phenomenon are not yet well understood.

That said, we do know that the acuity of our senses declines with age. The lenses of our eyes thicken and tinge more yellow, allowing less light into the eye. Our sense of smell, taste and hearing also become less sharp. So, while you don’t have to recreate Arakawa and Gins’s quirky apartments, enriching your environment with color, art, plants and other sensorially stimulating elements may be a worthwhile investment not just for protecting your mind as you age, but also your joy.

4. Buy yourself flowers 

As if you needed an excuse for this one, but just in case, here you go. A study of older adults found that memory and mood improved when people were given a gift of flowers, which wasn’t the case when they were given another kind of gift.

Why would flowers have this effect? One reason may link to research on the attention restoration effect, which shows that the passive stimulation we find in looking at greenery helps to restore our ability to concentrate. Perhaps improved attention also results in improved memory. Another possibility, which is pure speculation at this point, relates to the evolutionary rationale for our interest in flowers.

Because flowers eventually become fruit, it would have made sense for our ancestors to take an interest in them and remember their location. Monitoring the locations of flowers would allow them to save time and energy when it came to finding fruiting plants later, and potentially reach the fruit before other hungry animals. I have to stress that there’s no evidence I’m aware of to support this explanation, but it’s an intriguing possibility.

Taking it a step further, research has also shown that gardening can have mental and physical health benefits for older adults. So whether you buy your flowers or grow them, know that you’re taking a joyful step toward greater well-being in later life.

There’s something joyful about a mini time warp — maybe it’s revisiting a vacation spot you once loved or maybe it’s a getaway with friends where you banish talk of present-day concerns.

5. Try a time warp 

In 1981, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer ran an experiment with a group of men in their 70s that has come to be known as “the counterclockwise study.” For five days, they lived inside a monastery that had been designed to look just like it was 1959. There were vintage radios and black-and-white TVs instead of cassette players and VHS. The books that lined the shelves were ones that were popular at the time. The magazines, TV shows, clothes and music were all throwbacks to that exact period.

But these men weren’t just living in a time warp. They also had to participate. They were treated like they were in their 50s, rather than their 70s. They had to carry their own bags. They discussed the news and sports of 22 years earlier in the present tense. And to preserve the illusion, there were no mirrors and no photos, except of their younger selves.

At the end of five days, the men stood taller, had greater manual dexterity, and even better vision. Independent judges said they looked younger. A touch football game broke out among the group (some of whom had previously walked with a cane) as they waited for the bus home.

Langer was hesitant to publish her findings, concerned that the unusual method and small sample size might be hard for the academic community to accept. But in 2010, a BBC show recreated the experiment with aging celebrities to similar effect. Langer’s subsequent research has led her to conclude that we can prime our minds to feel younger, which in turn can make our bodies follow suit.

While it might be difficult to recreate Langer’s study in our own lives, I think there’s something joyful about a mini time warp. Maybe it’s revisiting a vacation spot you once loved, and steeping yourself in memories from an earlier time. Maybe it’s a getaway with friends where you banish all talk of present-day concerns. Maybe it’s finding a book or a stack of old magazines from back then and reading them while listening to throwback tunes.

It’s also worth noting that a control group from the counterclockwise study who simply reminisced about their youth, without using the present tense, did not experience the same dramatic results — so these “mini time warps” may be more for fun than for tangible benefit. But even if you don’t turn back the clock, checking back in with your younger self can be a way to rediscover parts of yourself that you may have lost touch with and bring them with you as you age.

6. Maximize mobility 

Exercise is often touted as a way to stay healthy and vibrant at any age, but one finding that makes it particularly relevant as we get older is that movement has been shown in studies to increase the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a vital role in learning and memory. This is important because the hippocampus shrinks as we age, which can lead to memory deficits and increased risk of dementia. In one study of older adults, exercise increased hippocampus size by 2 percent, which is equivalent to reversing one to two years of age-related decline.

In addition to its cognitive effects, movement itself can be a source of joy. The ability to swim, hike, dance and play can be conduits to joy well into our older years. When I struggle to get motivated to exercise, I often think about my future self and how investing in my mobility now can help preserve range of motion and minimize repetitive stress injuries later. Simply put: you have one body, and it has to last your whole life. The more you do now to care for it, the more freedom you’ll have to do the things you love late in life.

As we age, we have a choice: We can either cling to the world as we shaped it and refuse to engage in the new world that kids are creating, or we can adapt to their world and remain curious, active participants.

7. Refeather your nest

Once you start looking at negative tropes around aging, you start seeing more and more of them. Take the phrase “empty nest,” which carries strong connotations of loss and deprivation. Though I’m at the stage where my nest suddenly just became quite full, I love the idea of reframing the “empty nest” into something more joyful.

One of my readers, Lee-Anne Ragan, offers up as a joyful process in the wake of children going off to start their own independent lives. She points out that the idea of an empty nest suggests that there’s nothing left, while refeathering takes a more ecological lens, imagining a kind of regeneration that happens as the home, and the family, transforms into something new. A refeathered nest is a place of possibility, creativity and delight.

8. Stay up on tech

While technology is often blamed for feelings of isolation, some studies show that for older adults, being technologically facile can offer a boost to well-being. One reason is that internet use may serve a predictor of social connection more broadly, and social connection is one of the most important contributors toward mental health and well-being throughout life, but especially in old age.

Other studies suggest that when older adults lack the skills to be able to use technology effectively, it leads to a greater sense of disconnection and disempowerment and that offering training to older adults on technology can promote cognitive function, interpersonal connection and a sense of control and independence.

I’ve often been tempted, when a radically new app or device comes out, to say “That’s for the kids,” and ignore it. With free time so scarce, exploring new tech feels less appealing than digging into one of the books piled up on my nightstand. And anyway, unplugging is supposed to be good for us, right? But technology shapes the world we live in, and those technologies that seem new and fringy in the moment often end up in the mainstream, influencing the ways we communicate, work and access even basic services.

I remember trying to teach my grandmother how to use email. She was someone who never wanted to bother anyone, and I thought that email’s asynchronous communication would be good for her. Instead of calling, she could just send a note and know that she wasn’t interrupting anyone. She tried, but she struggled to learn it. She had stopped caring about technology long before that, and the leap to figure out how to use a computer was too great. Small choices not to engage with a new technology don’t matter much in the moment, but once you get a few steps down the road to disconnection, it can feel intimidating to try to plug back in.

Staying engaged with new technologies doesn’t have to be a burden. It might simply mean saying yes when a niece or nephew invites you play Minecraft or opening a TikTok account just to check it out. You don’t have to master every new app or tool, but being comfortable with new developments can help you ensure you don’t end up feeling helpless or blindsided when the tech you rely on every day changes.

I think a lot about something psychologist Alison Gopnik said when I interviewed her for the Joy Makeover a couple of years ago. She said that each new generation breaks paradigms and overturns old ways of doing things as a matter of course. This isn’t gratuitous — it’s how we move forward as a society.

Each generation of kids will remake the world, and from this we’ll gain all kinds of new discoveries. So as we age, we have a choice: we can either cling to the world as we shaped it and refuse to engage in the new world our kids’ and grandkids’ generations are creating, or we can adapt to their world and remain curious, active participants in it.

This to me is at the heart of aging joyfully. Our goal shouldn’t be to cling to youth as we get older, but to keep our joy alive by tending our inner child throughout our days while also nurturing our connection to the changing world. In doing so, we balance wisdom with wonder, confidence with curiosity and depth with delight.

By:

Source: Aging is inevitable, so why not do it joyfully? Here’s how |

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References

“Does Human Life Span Really Have a Limit?”. WebMD. 28 June 2018.

4 Things Longevity Experts Do Every Day for Healthy Aging

When you look into your future, who do you want to see? Someone who’s full of life and chatting everyone up, telling vibrant stories about your past? Still signing up for 10Ks well into your seventh decade? Someone whose doctor tells them they have the heart of someone decades younger?

It’s possible to live longer and feel better if you have the right habits. Here’s what internal medicine doctors, registered dietitians and certified personal trainers do to make sure they age well:

1. ‘I Switch Up My Food’

Variety is the X-factor when it comes to building a healthy diet for longevity, Angel Planells, MD, RDN, a Seattle-based national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

“Consuming a wide variety of foods — whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, dairy and meat and non-meat protein — helps to fuel my body and have it running like a high-octane sports car,” he says.

As Planells explains, variety beats boredom and ensures he’s getting a range of nutrients, including carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.

That’s on display with his protein choices, where he toggles between chicken, fish, pork and lamb, as well as snacking on nuts and seeds. In addition to being used to build and repair muscles and maintain the strength of your skeleton, protein is also important for the health of hair and nails, too, he says.

2. ‘I Get Some Sort of Movement in Every Day’

Eric Goldberg, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health and senior director of NYU Langone Internal Medicine Associates, heads out for a run first thing in the morning.

“Establishing a strong baseline for fitness at a younger age has been shown to lead to healthier aging,” he tells LIVESTRONG.com.

Movement has looked different for him during the pandemic, and he’s had to make adjustments that would benefit his health the most during the changes of the past year.

“I started to run more days of the week — but shorter distances — in order to combat the stress of the past year and to have some intentional movement each day, especially with longer days sitting on a screen,” Dr. Goldberg explains.

Not only does this buoy his physical and mental health today, but it protects against the risk of frailty in the future. Frailty is a syndrome where loss of muscle leads to weakness, slowness, poor endurance and a low level of physical activity, per the Medical University of South Carolina. People who have frailty are more likely to fall, be hospitalized and have an increased risk of mortality — but frailty is not inevitable with aging.

The key, Dr. Goldberg says, is to get into the habit so that this daily movement becomes more automatic. “Habits generally take a month to build, so consistency is essential. Once integrated into your routine, they are easier to maintain,” he says.

3. ‘I Commit to Sleep’

One of the best pieces of healthy aging and longevity advice can be the hardest one to follow: Prioritize sleep as best as you can.

Brent Agin, MD, founder and medical director at Priority You MD in Clearwater, Florida, aims for 7 to 8 hours per night. “Quality of sleep is more important than quantity in most cases, so I don’t try to achieve a sleep cycle that’s unrealistic,” Dr. Agin tells LIVESTRONG.com.

Sleep, along with a nutrient-packed diet and regular exercise, is what Dr. Agin considers the three essentials for a healthy lifestyle. “Lifestyle is the driving force behind healthy aging,” he says.

If you know you’re lacking the sleep component, a good place to start is to aim to sleep more than six hours and then incrementally add on 15 minutes from there until you get to a duration that feels good to you. Sleeping fewer than six hours per night is associated with a higher risk of death from heart disease, stroke and cancer, according to the ​Journal of the American Heart Association​.

4. ‘I Exercise According to the 3 Pillars’

There is actually no one right way to exercise, but for the most benefit, you should mix it up.

“To make sure I’m prepared for healthy aging, I stick to the idea that my training is diverse and it covers the three pillars that I always go by: cardiovascular training for your heart, strength training for bone health and flexibility, and mobility training for balance,” Aleksandra Stacha-Fleming, certified personal trainer and founder of Longevity Lab NYC, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

The end goal isn’t a specific look or body type, but to allow your body to move freely and do what you need it to do.

“Everyone who’s active knowns how good it feels to be able to do everyday tasks without being out of breath, such as being strong enough to shovel the snow out of your driveway or carry groceries home from the store,” Stacha-Fleming says. “To simply do the normal stuff of living freely is aging gracefully with strength, and we should work on that every day.”

By Jessica Migala

Source: 4 Things Aging Experts Do to Live Longer and Feel Better | Livestrong.com

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References

Kunzmann, Ute; Little, Todd D; Smith, Jacqui (2000). “Is age-related stability of subjective well-being a paradox? Cross-sectional and longitudional evidence from the Berlin Aging Study”. Psychology and Aging. 15 (3): 511–526. doi:10.1037/0882-7974.15.3.511. PMID 11014714.

Aging Parents And Holidays Safety Over Comfort

This is the strangest holiday season of a lifetime, isn’t it? We get warnings about not visiting during holidays of all kinds and the rates of infection keep going up. Given that it’s inarguable now that the rates of infection by Covid-19, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are worse that ever, we have to consider the painful question before us: is it worse to visit our elders this season or is it worse to stay away?

It’s individual, as situations vary. We see our aging parents, perhaps on Zoom, lonely and in need of company. We can talk on the phone with them, but there are many limitations. One 98 year old client of ours at AgingParents.com can speak on the phone but he’s quite hard of hearing. Calls tend to be brief. And he gets confused by Zoom. His company is his caregivers. At least they can come to his home and he can afford to pay for in-home care. Some seniors have little contact with others now in person. Technology is sometimes difficult enough for Boomers, and imagine how odd it feels for those Boomers’ parents, many of whom are in their 80s and 90s or older.

For those with dementia, it is even worse. Difficulty learning new information is a characteristic of dementia and learning how to be on a video call is definitely new information for many. Yet, the emotions aging parents with dementia or other conditions feel are just as real as they are for anyone else. No one likes to be lonely and cut off from whatever fun they used to enjoy before the pandemic.

When anyone asks me for advice about which is worse, possible exposure to Covid-19 from an asymptomatic person or serious depression and loneliness, I say possible exposure to disease. At least we have some ways we can address loneliness, as well as depression. We can make those phone calls to aging loved ones who are away from us, even if they’re very short because of hearing loss, confusion or anything else. We can try video calls when anyone in the house is capable of helping with logging on or using technology like FaceTime.

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We can coordinate with our aging parents’ physician, in the event that they are looking so depressed you are very worried about it. Medication does work for most depressed folks and Medicare pays for standard medications to treat depression. Adult children may need to be advocates for their loved ones about this. It’s unlikely that an aging person is going to tell their family they’re depressed and need medication to get by during isolation. Family can step up and ask for an evaluation of depression symptoms from the doctor. It makes sense to take the edge off painful feelings when we can, even temporarily, as current isolation finally has an end in sight. Pharmaceuticals for treating depression are readily available and they work with medical supervision for kind, dosage and eventually getting off the medications.

What we know about Covid-19 now is what we knew early on when the disease ravaged nursing homes. Elders are by no means the only ones getting sick, but they have the worst mortality rate of any age group. Exposing them is not worth the risk of a holiday visit, painful as it is to forego it. They are just too vulnerable. MORE FOR YOUWhy Joe Biden Should Reform, Not Repeal, The Windfall Elimination ProvisionHow The Bidens Earned $16.7 Million After Leaving The White HouseiPhone 12 And 12 Pro Review: What’s Old Is New Again And More Accessible Than Ever

For families who can’t bear the thought of not seeing Mom, Dad, or a grandparent during times when families always try to be together, consider that you could be saving lives if you refrain from the visit you want to have with them.

I take comfort in knowing that apart from healthcare workers and those on the front lines of the fight against Covid-19, elders will be among the first to get the vaccine. That means that they have a better chance to get in front with protection and can avoid this life-threatening illness sooner than younger people can.

The takeaway is that this holiday season is the time to grit your teeth and stay away from your aging parents unless you already live with them. It will not be long before we can use the first vaccines to save them from getting Covid-19. Meanwhile, do the best you can with the phone, gifts sent in the mail, flowers, cards, letters, and possibly video calls with them. Importantly, contact your aging loved one’s doctor and ask for an evaluation if what you see looks like serious depression. Appropriate medications can lift the spirits, help people function better, and help them feel more inclined to participate in whatever is offered to keep them engaged.

And for all of us with elders in our lives, hang on a little longer. The vaccine will help us end this pandemic and enable us to look forward to a much better holiday season with aging parents next time around. You can feel good about staying away, as it is truly a responsible and loving act to protect those most vulnerable in our families. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website

Carolyn Rosenblatt

Carolyn Rosenblatt

I’m a California girl, born and raised here, with an abiding interest in health issues and particularly, healthy aging. I have always loved working with older people, probably because I had this amazing grandmother. She taught me so much about life, balance, how to be your own person, and how to savor the moment. She was a nurse and inspired me to be one, too. I evolved into a second career, practicing law, representing individuals. Now, I’m in the advice and conflict resolution field, focused on issues about aging and aging parents. This blog is dedicated to you, the one with the aging parent or aging loved one. Maybe it’s just about all of us middle aged folks getting older ourselves. My husband, Dr. Mikol Davis, a geriatric psychologist, and I put our efforts together at AgingParents.com & AgingInvestor.com. We’ve got 2, 30-something kids and an 94 year old mother in law.

Helping Mom is a big part of our lives. Lots of our friends are going through the same things we are: parents starting to decline in health or alertness, putting time in with all we can do to help out. The stresses affect you, and they affect me, too. I like to discuss these challenges and what you can do to meet them. Feel free to comment! Oh yes, I am the author of four books, “The Boomers Guide To Aging Parents,” “The Family Guide To Aging Parents,” “Working With Aging Clients: A Guide for Attorneys, Business and Financial Professionals,” and “Succeed With Senior Clients: A Financial Advisors Guide To Best Practice.” All books are available on Amazon.com

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Sofia Amirpoor

Having guilt about elderly parents is almost a right of passage for adult children! But it doesn’t have to be that way! Whether you feel like you’re not a good caregiver, or your elderly mother puts a guilt trip on you, or you’re feeling guilty over putting your parent in an assisted living or nursing home, this video will help you to reduce your feelings of guilt so you can get on with providing care while maintaining your sanity! WATCH MY OTHER POPULAR VIDEOS 5 Strategies to counteract Anticipatory Grief https://youtu.be/vJk_t8yc3ts Aid & Attendance Benefit Process (My roller-coaster application process) https://youtu.be/asPa97F6cC4 Talking to your parents about Assisted Living https://youtu.be/AhI4AL15_jE GIVE THE PERFECT GIFT THIS YEAR! Great Gift Ideas for Older Parents https://youtu.be/ELkFpaYDnkw Paying for Senior Care (11 CREATIVE ways to fund care in 2019) https://youtu.be/u8SA2-E1hEo When should you stop being a caregiver? https://youtu.be/zDAaiGiXESM How to apply for VA Aid & Attendance Step by Step https://youtu.be/A8YXawD5Lys#SeniorCare#FamilyCaregiver#ElderCare#Dementia

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