The Importance of Cognitive Fitness for Those With Dementia

The Importance of Cognitive Fitness for Those With Dementia

The Importance of Cognitive Fitness for Those With Dementia
From AGE of Central Texas Blog

By now, we are all familiar with physicians’ exhortations to exercise regularly. The connection between exercise and physical fitness is well-documented and clear cut — even moderate amounts of exercise lead to marked improvements in physical functioning.

What is not as widely publicized, but equally clear cut, is the connection between “brain exercises” and cognitive fitness. Increasingly, scientists are concluding that our brains are much like muscles in at least one respect – they grow stronger when presented with challenging puzzles, new experiences, and even something as simple as conversation with a friend!

But what about brains that are already exhibiting some form of memory loss? Is it possible to put a brain that is already showing the effects of a memory-robbing disease through its cognitive paces? As a social worker in an early memory loss support program, I hear these questions repeatedly.

Clients report that a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, or vascular dementia, to name a few, feels devastating. When we envisioned our retirement years, they tell me, we dreamt of more time with family, more opportunities to focus on what we want, and perhaps more opportunities to give back to the world through volunteering. A diagnosis of memory loss seems to derail those dreams. How can we focus on what is fun and meaningful, when just focusing is a challenge?

Luckily, scientific research is starting to give us tangible answers. Recent studies show that “cognitive stimulation,” which can include anything from discussions and word games to music and painting, can improve performance on cognitive tests in persons already diagnosed with some form of mild to moderate dementia.

One of the most vocal advocates for these so-called “social-ceuticals” is Dr. Richard Taylor (, a retired psychologist who was diagnosed with “dementia, probably of the Alzheimer’s type” about 10 years ago. Not one to shrink from a challenge, Dr. Taylor publicly chronicles his experiences, and in doing so, has become a very vocal advocate for those living with dementia. His active life is a vivid reminder that a diagnosis of memory loss need not put an end to enjoyable, stimulating, rewarding activities. Indeed, I see similar reminders at our early memory loss program weekly – beautiful paintings by clients who never thought they had artistic talent, insightful commentary on current events in weekly news discussions, and the discovery of ingenious ways to cope with an insidious disease. Over and over, clients report that accomplishing these things feels good. What a delight, then, to see that science is beginning to confirm what we have long suspected – cognitive stimulation has real and beneficial effects on memory and thinking in people with dementia.

The positive effects of these “social-ceuticals” even apply to caregivers, who often feel helpless in the face of a progressive memory loss. Caregivers who learn about cognitive stimulation and incorporate it into their other care tasks appear to enjoy having something proactive to do, and do not feel more burdened than their untrained counterparts.

For patients and caregivers living with a diagnosis of early memory loss, I encourage you to talk with your doctor not only about medications, but about therapeutic programs and activities in your community.

Written by Annette Juba, LCSW, the Deputy Director of Programs here at AGE of Central Texas. For more information on AGE’s Early Memory Loss Support Services, including brain-boosters activities and a support group, please click here or call 512-600-9275.

(Originally published in Texas Seniors’ Guides Spring 2013)

The childless plan for their fading days-New York Times

The Childless Plan for Their Fading Days
By ABBY ELLINFEB. 14, 2014
from The New York Times

HAVING children was never on Francine Tint’s to-do list. A painter of large abstract canvases, Ms. Tint never felt a biological imperative to reproduce or pass on her name to future generations.

“My paintings are my children,” said Ms. Tint, who is “over 65,” and whose work has been featured in galleries and museums across the country. But though she was always clear on her decision, in the back of her brain one thing slightly nagged at her: Without offspring, on whom could she rely in her old age?

“People don’t have children to take care of them later on in life,” said Ms. Tint, who is divorced and lives in Greenwich Village. “It’s not a reason to have children. They may come for a second on your deathbed, and that’s it. But of course, I worry.”

Read the full article here.

Forbes Lists Joining a Village Number One In their 50 Tips for Turning 50

Forbes Lists Joining a Village Number One
In their 50 Tips for Turning 50

from the Village to Village Network

Arlington, VA (January 14, 2014) – The January 10 issue of Forbes identified “joining a Village” as the number one tip in “50 tips for turning 50”. Villages are changing the way baby boomers and elders age. They are consumer-driven, non-profit membership organizations of adults over 50 who have chosen to remain in the homes, neighborhoods and communities they love as they age. Serving more than 25,000 people in 120 Villages in 39 States, this critical movement is changing the aging paradigm for millions of Americans.

“The tipping point is here,” said Judy Willett, national director of the Village to Village Network. “Villages are the wave of the future for the millions of people who want to be in charge of their own lives and age in their homes and communities.”

The Village to Village Network (VtVN), a non-profit, peer-to-peer organization, enables Villages nationwide to serve its members with the support of the national movement. For the past five years, VtVN has built the capacity of Villages across the country by providing a webportal for sharing information and resources as well as annual national gatherings for Villages. VtVN is a partnership between Beacon Hill Village and Capital Impact Partners.

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About The Village to Village Network
The Village to Village Network was created by Villages for Villages. The VtV Network helps communities establish and manage their own “Villages.” The Network is sponsored through a joint partnership between Beacon Hill Village and Capital Impact Partners and was developed in response to requests from Villages nationwide. For more information, visit

About Beacon Hill Village
Beacon Hill Village is a membership organization in the heart of Boston. Created by a group of long-time Beacon Hill residents as an alternative to moving from their homes to retirement or assisted living communities, it was founded in 2001.Beacon Hill Village enables a growing and diverse group of Boston residents to stay in their neighborhoods as they age, by organizing and delivering programs and services that allow them to lead safe, healthy productive lives in their own homes.

About Capital Impact Partners
Capital Impact Partners, formerly known as NCB Capital Impact, is a leader in financial and social innovation for communities. A nonprofit organization and D.C. certified Community Development Financial Institution, Capital Impact Partners bring its roots in cooperative development, diverse network of partners and problem solving know-how to connect communities to capital and capabilities that together create social change.

Aging in Community from the ASA

Aging in Community: The Communitarian Alternative to Aging in Place, Alone
posted by American Society on Aging Blog

Excerpt from the article:
“Aging in community is not new. At the turn of the twentieth century, an older person could expect to live and die in their own home and community, with family, friends, and neighbors providing support as needed (Cassel and Demel, 2001). Of course, few people lived into old age. The average life expectancy in 1900—when the first of the G.I. Generation was born—was only forty-nine years old. Merely 4 percent of the country, three million Americans, lived to ages 65 and older.

Beginning in the 1950s, improvements in the prevention and treatment of heart disease and strokes, two of the three leading causes of death, significantly increased age-adjusted life expectancy. These and other medical breakthroughs enabled the G.I. Generation to be the first generation to live well into their seventies and beyond—twenty years or more beyond their life expectancy at birth. Today those ages 85 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population, and the group turning 100 years or older has grown 66 percent, from 32,194 in 1980 to 53,364 in 2010 (Meyer, 2012).”

Read the full article here


Did you know the American Society on Aging (ASA) has a helpful section dedicated to issues and resources especially for the LGBTQ community? There are online learnings, a clearinghouse, and links to the national center. Check it out!

From their site:
“A core part of ASA’s mission is its focus on diversity: we lead the field of aging in educating and training members on cultural awareness and competencies. Part of that education is our ongoing, unique coverage of LGBTQ aging issues. Now that the Defense of Marriage Act is eroding, what are the legal issues and impacts for this cohort? What are the particular health issues for the LGBTQ community? What might be the best models for culture change that will ameliorate discrimination in eldercare facilities? What are the retirement planning issues specific to same-sex couples? Mainstream media and people’s personal blogs may tell the story that captures attention, but ASA gives you the factual information that supports your informed policymaking strategy and in establishing best practices and models that “do the right thing” for LGBTQ communities nationwide.”