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Our senior years present a wonderful opportunity to get the most out of life.

With more free time, seniors may truly enjoy their “golden years” focusing on hobbies, traveling, volunteering and spending time with family and friends. The quality of these golden years depends not only how a person stays physically, but also mentally fit.

Four studies in the last decade confirmed that seniors who participate in cognitive activities, such as reading, doing crossword puzzles, playing board games or cards, or playing musical instruments had a decreased risk of memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Griffin1Cognitive skills are the mental capabilities that allow us to process all the information we receive from our five senses. These skills are needed for a person to be able to think, talk, learn or read. They are what give us the ability to recall things from memory.

These studies showed that participation in leisurely physical activities such as playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, and dancing can increase cognitive reserve, delaying the onset of memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Participation in leisurely cognitive activities can also slow these diseases in the early stages.

The effects of frequent cognitive activity are most beneficial to those at risk for Alzheimer’s disease as subjects are 47% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those who are less active.

At The Geriatric Assessment Center at Griffin Hospital, we provide a comprehensive medical assessment and diagnostic services for seniors experiencing problems with activities of daily living. When a senior displays signs of memory loss, we encourage the caregiver to engage the senior more often with interactive activities, especially cognitive ones that engage the brain to think and reason, keeping it stimulated and vital. Cognitive activities are usually part of senior centers and adult daycare activities.

Preventing dementia may decrease the need for nursing home placement, allowing seniors to benefit from the positive aspects of independence.

Independence promotes better health because seniors who are responsible for their own health are more inclined to take care of themselves. In addition, independent seniors tend to socialize and enjoy their old age rather than sitting idle and living alone or spending time by oneself.

A major concern for many caregivers of independent seniors is serious falls. Falling or even being at risk for falling has a negative impact upon quality of life. Seniors with chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, respiratory disorders and heart disease increases one’s risk of experiencing a fall.

When a fall occurs, any delay in providing immediate help may jeopardize one’s health and the ability to remain living independently at home. To help seniors remain independent and safe, Griffin Hospital Lifeline provides a personal emergency help button that can call for-help 24 hours a day, seven  days a week, and 365 days a year. Lifeline with AutoAlert has the capability of detecting a fall and calling for help with or without pressing the button.

We work most of our adult lives looking forward to our retirement years. With a focus on staying mentally and physically active and being proactive in safeguarding our home to reduce the risk of falls or fall injuries to remain living independently, the quality of our golden years will be at their best.

The Geriatric Assessment Center at Griffin Hospital is located at 67 Maple Avenue, Derby. For more information, call 203-732-7328 or visit www.griffinfacultypractice.org.

For additional information about Lifeline, call 1-800-242-1306 ext. 4722 or visit www.griffinhealth.org/lifeline.