Alzheimer’s is one of the most devastating and yet most widespread diseases affecting older adults. However, there are ways to slow or even reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. While genetics play a major role in determining who gets Alzheimer’s disease, environment can be a significant contributing factor. Here are five things a senior’s environment should provide to potentially minimize the effects of Alzheimer’s:
- Mental stimulation: Mentally stimulating activities reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s and can slow the progress of dementia once it has set in. An environment that allows for new experiences, stimulation and changes of routine can thus have a profound effect on mental health as you age. In particular, intellectual activities like reading are recommended to help prevent or slow Alzheimer’s.
- Social interaction: A healthy social life is one of the best tonics against the advance of dementia, but it’s also one of the hardest needs for many seniors to meet. Many seniors begin to feel isolated, lonely and then depressed as they age, especially if mobility issues or pain conspire to keep them in the house more. If they live in an environment where they can get regular social interaction, depression may lift and dementia may be slowed substantially.
- Comfort and ease of daily activities: Alzheimer’s makes basic daily tasks like cooking, cleaning and grooming much harder. Difficulty completing these tasks can be confusing or lead to agitation and stress. When a senior is able to live in an environment optimized for their comfort, safety and accessibility, or has professional caretakers to help with these tasks, the world becomes a less frustrating place and there is less agitation on a daily basis.
- Healthy, gentle exercise and time outside: Getting time outdoors is healthy but many seniors do not go outside much. It can be difficult for them to go outside with mobility concerns and if they have dementia it may be unsafe to go outside unattended. But when a secure, supervised outdoor environment is available they can enjoy nature and fresh air easily. This, along with the simple exercise it provides, can be a great tool in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Often, a short walk outside is enough to defray “sundowning” or late afternoon restlessness.
- A calm, relaxing environment: Perhaps the single uniting characteristic of all Alzheimer’s-friendly environments is that they make it possible for a senior to have calm, enjoyable and relaxing days. The less stress placed on a senior, the less difficult Alzheimer’s is to cope with and the more meaningful each day is to them.