Average life expectancy has increased, and it is critical to prepare the tools that will enable us to deal with the problems associated with this. What is the benefit of living longer if the quality isn’t good?
As you have aged, have you found yourself:
- Easily distracted from your train of thought?
- Spending more time searching for your car keys or glasses?
- Forgetting the names of people, you’ve met recently?
- Forgetting if you took your medication or turned off the gas?
- Hearing others say, “We’ve heard this story a million times. Don’t you have something new to tell us?”
- More often apologizing after you have forgotten something?
- Feeling like you are or are becoming an inconvenience?
It’s important to know that forgetting is typical in the aging process because of cerebral events, accidents, strokes, or other traumas. These events can cause short-term memory, also called “Working memory,” problems that prevent the brain from correctly encoding and storing information in a way that’s easy to pull up when you need it. Usually, the short-term memory problems prevent capturing new events, while things that happened in the past are well remembered.
While it’s normal that neurotraumatic events to affect short-term memory, it’s important to know that just losing short-term memory isn’t normal or inevitable.
Neurocognitive brain training programs can help improve and maintain cognitive functioning and self-confidence as we age. “Neuroplasticity of the Brain” refers to the brain’s ability to change throughout life including the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells (neurons). Brains, like any other muscle in the body, can be trained and repeatedly retrained throughout one’s life. The process is simple, easily accessible programs that don’t even require a person to leave their home. It’s like a workout in the gym but cheaper than a gym membership. Several studies show brain training is highly effective in improving short-term memory and cognitive functioning and improvements can last for up to 5 years! (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2006)
Neurocognitive brain training is important for keeping our brains in top working order as we age.
Cognitive activity that can be preserved and even enhanced at any age includes:
- Speed of storage and retrieval and information processing speed
- Short-term memory – Storage and retrieval of new information
- Long-term -Memory encoding
- Integration of visual and auditory memory
Preserving cognitive retention can improve anyone’s quality of life but has an even greater impact as we age.
25 years ago, we were less likely to worry about the effect of our cognitive functioning, but with agricultural, industrial, and technological advancements our perspective of what is possible has been broadened. Memory challenges are no longer accepted as just “the way things go.” Just ask 80-year-old Adam who looks good, feels, and functions great! Adam, like many others, has realized that many challenges previously considered a typical result of aging, can be avoided, or reduced by eating healthy, being physically active, involvement in social networks, and working to keep good functioning in the organic processes in the brain.
Not only can cognitive functioning be improved but many studies have shown that through enhanced/continued cognitive function as one age contributes to raising self-confidence when the following aspects are addressed:
- Attention and Concentration- reducing distraction reduces confusion
- Response Speed and Information Processing- promotes alertness and clarity during the day
- Orientation- responses to what’s going on around
- Order and Organization – enhances decision-making ability and results in less dependency on others
- General Cognitive Functions –provides vitality and increases and functional abilities and productive creation
When I talk about neurocognitive training, I’m asked two common questions.
First: Can the results of neurocognitive training be preserved for a long time? Yes, if you engage in training consistently for at least 6 months, the brain will maintain the capabilities achieved. Think of it like learning to swim. While learning to swim, it is necessary to practice several times a week and for several months, but once you have learned to swim, you never forget.
Second is: Is it possible to improve memory at older ages? I answer, absolutely. Memory can always be improved! This is proven by many studies conducted in the field. In fact, studies show that people who engage in brain training, are less likely to experience dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases associated with aging.
Beyond disease prevention, elders who take an active role in the family, helping their grandchildren, children, and each other with homework and other activities are relied on as vital to the family unit. Older adults have so much more than simply time and patience to contribute to their families and society. Feeling useful and respected strongly correlates with feeling welcomed and loved and contributes to a longer, healthier, and more productive life.
Live your best life in the future by being proactive today. A healthy, well-functioning brain needs practice. And just like anything else, the more you practice, the better it will be.
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