Every day in the United States, 10,000 Baby Boomers reach 65, the age of retirement. Because of the immensity of this population segment, this trend will continue daily for another 11 years. As technology continues to rapidly advance, so does life expectancy. With increased life expectancy comes an increase in Alzheimer's disease. According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are currently 5.7 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and by mid-century, that number is projected to more than double to 14 million.
Researchers aren't quite yet sure if Alzheimer's disease can be prevented. While there is proof specific genes can play a role in its development, not everyone with those genes goes on to develop the condition. Additionally, some without the genes also end up with Alzheimer's disease. One thing investigators are sure of is that certain habits and lifestyle choice can at least delay the onset. Here is a look at the steps older Americans can take to help avoid becoming a statistic.
1. Aerobic Exercise
Seniors who had one or both parents with Alzheimer's disease have an increased risk of developing the condition themselves. Researchers found that those who participated in regular aerobic exercise fared three times better in cognitive functioning than those who did a combination of strength training and aerobics. Both groups did better than those who didn't exercise at all, who suffered a loss of cognitive function.
2. Proper Diet
There have been many studies that seem to indicate a correlation between cardiovascular disease as well as diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. A recent study showed following the Mediterranean diet may be beneficial in preventing the brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease. The Mediterranean diet places an emphasis on olive oil, fish, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables, and limits processed foods and red meats such as beef and pork. Older people and those who live on their own often don't take care to make sure they have a well-balanced diet.
Humans are social beings, and it has long been known that isolation can lead to depression, but researchers have found it may do more than just contribute to mental illness. Studies done in mice have found that those who were kept in isolated housing and forced to live on their own rather than in a group setting exacerbated Alzheimer's symptoms. As people live longer, some are naturally outliving their spouse, other family members, friends, and even children in some cases, and if steps are not taken to ensure socialization, it could cause problems.
While most new retirees are able to function on their own, over time, increasing age, decreasing eyesight, illnesses and injuries, worsening diet, and the loss of loved ones can all make these things more difficult. The answer to these problems may be as simple as moving to a retirement community. In a retirement community, senior citizens have the opportunity to take advantage of the many provided services.
There's the opportunity to take classes, both exercise and ones that stimulate the brain or provide socialization, such as crafts or dance. Most retirement communities have a central recreation center and dining hall, providing further opportunities to socialize and eat properly. Transportation services are also usually available, making getting around easier. Some retirement communities may also provide minor medical care and housekeeping assistance.