Brain Fitness and Neuroplasticity:  The Key to Your Aging Parents’ Best Life

Brain fitness should be a new goal for your aging parents.

True or False. Our brain functions diminish with age.

The old beliefs about the human brain have now fallen by the wayside. New technologies confirm amazing things that we never knew before. For instance, we used to believe that the brain was fully formed in childhood and our cellular functions only diminished as we age. Instead, scientists have discovered neuroplasticity and neurogenesis continue throughout our lifetime.

New research has confirmed that the human brain continues to grow -- in fact new cells are continually created (a process called neurogenesis ) until we die. If you help your parents remain active -- both mentally and physically -- the process of neurogenesis is enhanced. This clip from a PBS special introduces the new excitement within the scientific community.

Brain Fitness counteracts Alzheimer's disease

Even more amazing is how flexible and adaptable the human brain becomes with continued vigorous use (neuroplasticity). In fact, cognitive reserve can develop, which counteracts the effects of diminished capacity, including Alzheimer’s disease. Too good to be true? How about this finding from research:

“Individuals who lead mentally stimulating lives… have reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Studies suggest that they have 35-40% less risk of manifesting the disease. The pathology will still occur, but they are able to cope with it better. Some won’t ever be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s because they don’t present any symptoms. In studies that follow [seemingly] healthy elders over time and then [who] get autopsies, up to 20% of people who did not present any significant problem in their daily lives have full blown Alzheimer’s pathology in their brains.”

More brain cells and pathways have been stored up (brain reserve and cognitive reserve) so if some are destroyed by age or disease, there are many more left to work with.

What your parents do with their time, makes a difference.

Helping your parents sustain a mentally stimulating life is the key. Scientists have concluded that “Learning is physical.” As your parents are involved in more and more activities, physically and mentally -- brain aging and decline can be reversed.

Physical Exercise is Vital for Brain Fitness, Too
Going to the gym, swimming, even a brisk walk boosts not only the body, but the brain of your aging parents. That's the conclusion of a review published this week by the Association for Psychological Science. It's not a new idea; the paper surveys the available research on the topic and concludes that cognitive enrichment activities—puzzles, social interaction, and the like—may well help you preserve brain function as you age. But they were especially complimentary towards physical activity. "What is most impressive to us," the authors write, "is the evidence demonstrating benefits of aerobic physical exercise on cognitive functioning in older adults."

Help Your Parents Create a Senior Exercise Plan

Regular physical activity promotes growth of brain cells, releases chemicals that enhance mood, and promotes deep restorative sleep at night. Helping your parents create a simple exercise plan will help their bodies, but also their brain. You can start with these simple exercises below if your parents have been relatively inactive. Some can be done from a chair, others while standing. They will increase muscle strength, balance, control, as well as the mental stimulation of learning a new activity.

Don't Let Your Parents Buy Into the Myth of Brain Aging

Brain aging is a trick. Nature sets your parents up for decline, but they have a choice. Brain fitness will allow them to strengthen new brain cells through cognitive reserve. Here's how.

Brain Plasticity or Neuroplasticity is a Key to Preserving Memory and Aging: Learn These Secrets to Opening the Lock

Brain plasticity is good news for aging and the brain. Your parent's brain fitness can improve by continued learning. Watch these experts share some clues.

Brain Foods: Help Your Parents Memory and Aging. Here's What They Need for Better Brain Fitness.

Brain foods are key. What you eat affects aging and the brain. Your aging parents' brains can get added protection from alzheimer's and other mental decline. Learn how to improve Brain Fitness by the changing what they eat.

Memory and Aging Can Be Improved

Have you walked into a room clear that you had a purpose and then suddenly can’t remember why? Did you put that ring down somewhere and can’t find it now? Are you worried that you’re not going to remember your name next week?

Not all memory issues mean that you’re heading down the road to dementia.

Neurogenesis: the Secret Link between Senior Exercise, Brain Fitness and Memory

Neurogenesis reveals the lie that with an aging brain, memory is destined to fade. Good news for aging parents? Physical exercise can turn on the brain's ability to grow, heal and rewire itself. Learn how.

Senior Exercise: Key for Aging Fitness, Brain Health, and Independence

Senior exercise is more than a good idea for your aging parents. Researchers continue to discover contributions even beyond general strength and health. Here you will find exercises especially designed for senior citizens: Warm up Exercises, Balance, Upper Body, Lower body, and Aerobic.

From Brain Fitness to Aging Parents Home Page

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