MySeniorCenter Fun Facts

Tuesday, September 5th, 2023


Scientists don't fully understand the causes of dementia, but they do agree that the risks increase with age. In fact, 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 have some form of dementia. While Alzheimer's is the most common disease (roughly two-thirds of all cases), the symptoms are fairly consistent across all types: memory loss; confusion and needing help with daily tasks; problems with language and understanding, and changes in behavior. Dementia is progressive, which means symptoms may be mild at first, but they worsen over time. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, there are things we can do slow the progression of the disease:

  • Regular exercise
  • 7-8 hours of sleep per night
  • Healthy diet (Mediterranean is recommended)
  • Staying mentally active
  • Being socially involved
  • Monitoring health

Those tips for improving brain health sound a lot like an advertisement for joining your Center. Even a good night's sleep is sure to happen after a full day at the Center. But to achieve maximum brain health, it's best to abide by ALL of those guidelines. In this issue, we'll look at some specific activities that fall under each of those categories and drill into the participation data across the Network.

Let's have a look.

Welcome to Fun Facts
A Beautiful Mind
edition

Enjoy!

Got My Mind Set On You

In researching this topic, we've linked some interesting articles throughout. One of the most fascinating articles included a heat map showing Alzheimer's rates by County in the US. Clicking on the image below opens the article that summarizes research presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in July 2023. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a similar map for Canada, but if anyone has seen one, we'd love to see it.

Time Out Of Mind

While age does not CAUSE dementia, the percentage of people with Alzheimer’s dementia increases dramatically with age. According to the Alzheimer's Association, 5% of people age 65 to 74, 13.1% of people age 75 to 84, and 33.3% of people age 85 or older have Alzheimer’s dementia.

This fact leads to two increasingly urgent issues that are, and will continue to be, addressed by Senior Centers. The first is a growing need for caregiver support and training (subject of a future Fun Facts issue). The second, is to help delay the onset of Alzheimer's (or any other dementia disease) by providing the programs to keep the mind and body fulfilled. This is where the current Senior Center model truly shines. Specifically:

Regular exercise increases blood flow to the brain. Some great examples at Centers are pickleball, dancing, yoga, tai chi, strength training, and walking.

Staying mentally active makes the brain work best. A few of the more popular programs are music, learning a new language, woodworking, puzzles, bingo, and card games.

Being socially involved by participating in a book group, gardening group or card club, playing board games, or eating lunch with a group improves cognitive function and reduces feelings of loneliness.

Blood pressure, blood sugar, podiatry, and hearing clinics are great ways to stay active in managing health.

The food options for congregate, takeout, café, and curbside meals continue to expand at Centers making proper nutrition available to millions of seniors.

Peace of Mind

For the purposes of the next two graphs, we grouped every program held across the Network in the last twelve months into one of the above recommended brain health categories. We then analyzed the percentage of attendees that went to programs in each category (first graph). Because one person can attend events in more than one category, the numbers below exceed 100%.

Not every Center has access to the space or medical resources to provide healthcare clinics, which is likely the cause of the small participation percentage in health management. The other categories have fairly even participation numbers.

Always On My Mind

For maximum benefit, it's best to participate in EACH category of activity on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that's not what most people do. In fact, only 2% of all participants across the Network in the past year have attended at least one program in each category.

In the graph above, 100% of the population attends a program in at least one category. 55% attend programs in at least two categories, etc.

This presents an excellent opportunity to promote better brain health as a reason for sticking around and checking out other programs that are offered at the Center. You could pitch it as cross-training for the brain!

Summary

As people live longer, the risk of dementia increases. Senior Centers have the perfect suite of offerings to reduce or delay the severity of symptoms and improve quality of life. It's just one more reason that Senior Centers are amazing. Keep up the great work!