Senior Cognitive Training

Neurobics+

Neurobics by Masterpiece Living is an exclusive memory-enhancement program by Masterpiece Living.  Neurobics is a six-week course designed to improve memory and specifically targets older adults.  Neurobics directly challenges memory and stimulates the brains of all that participate in the program.  Research has shown that Neurobics yields significant results in having a positive effect on older adults’ abilities to remember and gave them a better understanding of memory in relation to the aging process.

Included with the Neurobics materials are activities and exercises that encourage the participants to think critically and challenge their memory.  Masterpiece Living has also included a Neurobics pre-course and post-course assessment to evaluate the success and reactions in your own community.

Each unit includes a preparation page which covers the objectives and materials needed.  The units also have a corresponding PowerPoint presentation which includes facilitator notes that guide the facilitator through each session and offers cues and examples to increase the participant’s understanding of the material.

 

Senior Cognitive Training & Normal Aging Resources and Background to Cognition

Normal Amount of Cognitive Decline

A commonly held misconception is that aging results in ourcan inevitable loss of all cognitive abilities and that nothing can be done to halt this decline.  Research, however, does not support these claims.  While certain areas of thinking do show a normaesl decline as we age, others remain stable.  Moreover, interventions may actually slow some of the changes that do occur.

  • Intelligence: “Chrystalized” intelligence, i.e., knowledge or experience accumulated over time, actually remains stable with age.  On the other hand, “fluid” intelligence or abilities not based on experience or education tend to decline.
  • Memory:  Remote memory or recall of past events that have been stored over many years remains relatively preserved in old age.  Recent memory or the formation of new memories, however, is more vulnerable to aging.
  • Attention:  Simple or focused attention such as the ability to attend to a television program tends to be preserved in older age.  Difficulties may be encountered, however, when divided attention is required such as trying to pay attention to the television and simultaneously talk on the telephone.
  • Language:  Verbal abilities including vocabulary are preserved as we age.  Common changes have to do with word retrieval or the process of getting words out.  It takes longer and is more difficult to find the words one wants when engaged in conversation or trying to recall names of people and objects.  The information is not lost but it is more difficult to retrieve.
  • Reasoning and Problem Solving:  Traditional ways of approaching solutions are maintained in older persons.  Problems that have not been encountered during your life may take extra time to figure out.
  • Speed of Processing:  Aging does affect the speed with which cognitive and motor processes are performed.  This does not mean that the activities cannot be performed, but rather that they take longer!

Senior Cognitive Training and Factors Affecting Cognitive Aging

All of the above abilities can be affected by factors that change the efficiency with which older adults process information.  These include:

  • Medications which may produce side effects such as drowsiness and mental dullness;
  • Sensory changes which can interfere with the processing of information (e.g., loss of hearing which can affect whether or not someone’s name is heard when introduced);
  • Health related changes such as arthritis and pain which can affect cognitive areas such as concentration and processing speed; and
  • Changes in mood such as depression and anxiety which can alter one’s motivation to learn new information and to apply active strategies.

Senior Cognitive Training and Compensating For Cognitive Changes

A previous view was that as we age, brain cells inevitably die off and are not replaced.  This concept led to the belief that nothing could be done to alter the inevitable.  We now know that certain interventions can sharpen cognitive processes.  These include:

    • Reducing Stress:  Researchers have found that high stress levels impair learning and memory in both animals and humans.  Strategies to reduce stress such as exercise may be beneficial.

 

  • Maintaining Good Health:  Regular visits to the doctor are critical to make sure that medical conditions which can themselves impair thinking are under good control.  In addition, possible interactions among medications should be evaluated by letting your physician know all of the medications you are taking, even if not prescribed by that particular doctor.  A diet rich in fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants such as blueberries, strawberries, and broccoli as well as certain fats such as olive oil may be neuroprotective.

 

  • Keeping Mentally Stimulated:  Studies have found that engaging in challenging cognitive tasks can protect against age-related declines in thinking and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  It is important to keep oneself stimulated through activities such as playing bridge, reading, and attending adult education courses.
  • Using Active Strategies:  There is evidence that some of the difficulties in storing new memories are due to the fact that older persons do not spontaneously use strategies to encode this information.  When they do, age differences are weakened.  In addition, older adults demonstrate good recognition of new information when they are helped with cues to jog their memory.  Strategies that can be helpful to facilitate memory include following a routine (e.g., always putting one’s keys in the same place), using external techniques (e.g., a calendar, a pill box), and taking more time to actively process new information (e.g., when introduced to someone, pay extra attention and try to come up with an association to recall that person’s name)

 

 

Senior Cognitive Training and Normal cognitive decline

ARCD is subtle decline in cognitive abilities, such as episodic memory, attention, and time needed to complete complex activities.6,7 Individuals with ARCD might not have subjective memory complaints or objective cognitive deficits, and their ability to live independently may not be compromised.7 The degree of decline in ARCD may be smaller than previously thought.8 Park9 summarizes 4 main mechanisms thought to underlie age-related declines in cognition:

  • reduced speed of processing
  • decreased working memory capabilities
  • declining inhibitory control (eg, impaired complex attentional capabilities)
  • sensory changes (eg, visual and auditory deficits).

ARCD traditionally is thought to result from predictable changes in the brain associated with aging, such as reduced brain volume in the hippocampus and frontal lobes, loss of myelin, loss of synapses, and cytoskeletal changes.7 However, not all older adults experience ARCD. Some remain highly functional in their later years and continue to actively engage in life well into very old age.

Symptoms

Your brain, like the rest of your body, changes as you grow older. Many people notice gradually increasing forgetfulness as they age. It may take longer to think of a word or to recall a person’s name.

But consistent or increasing concern about your mental performance may suggest mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Cognitive issues may go beyond what’s expected and indicate possible MCI if you experience any or all of the following:

  • You forget things more often.
  • You forget important events such as appointments or social engagements.
  • You lose your train of thought or the thread of conversations, books or movies.
  • You feel increasingly overwhelmed by making decisions, planning steps to accomplish a task or interpreting instructions.
  • You start to have trouble finding your way around familiar environments.
  • You become more impulsive or show increasingly poor judgment.
  • Your family and friends notice any of these changes.

If you have MCI, you may also experience:

  • Depression
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy

Causes

  • Brain shrinkage

There’s no single cause of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), just as there’s no single outcome for the disorder. Symptoms of MCI may remain stable for years, progress to Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, or improve over time.

Current evidence indicates that MCI often, but not always, arises from a lesser degree of the same types of brain changes seen in Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Some of these changes have been identified in autopsy studies of people with MCI. These changes include:

  • Abnormal clumps of beta-amyloid protein (plaques) and microscopic protein clumps of tau characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease (tangles)
  • Lewy bodies, which are microscopic clumps of another protein associated with Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and some cases of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Small strokes or reduced blood flow through brain blood vessels

Brain-imaging studies show that the following changes may be associated with MCI:

  • Shrinkage of the hippocampus, a brain region important for memory
  • Enlargement of the brain’s fluid-filled spaces (ventricles)
  • Reduced use of glucose, the sugar that’s the primary source of energy for cells, in key brain regions

Risk factors

The strongest risk factors for MCI are:

  • Increasing age
  • Having a specific form of a gene known as APOE-e4, also linked to Alzheimer’s disease — though having the gene doesn’t guarantee that you’ll experience cognitive decline

Other medical conditions and lifestyle factors have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive change, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Depression
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Infrequent participation in mentally or socially stimulating activities

Complications

People with MCI have a significantly increased risk — but not a certainty — of developing dementia. Overall, about 1 to 2 percent of older adults develop dementia every year. Among older adults with MCI, studies suggest that around 10 to 15 percent develop dementia every year.

 

 

Cognitive impairment in older adults has a variety of possible causes, including medication side effects, metabolic and/or endocrine derangements, delirium due to intercurrent illness, depression, and dementia, with Alzheimer’s dementia being most common.

 

Compared with persons who had five or six social ties, those who had no social ties were at increased risk for incident cognitive decline after adjustment for age, initial cognitive performance, sex, ethnicity, education, income, housing type, physical disability, cardiovascular profile, sensory impairment, symptoms of depression, smoking, alcohol use, and level of physical activity

 

 

What is mild cognitive impairment?

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more-serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes

 

Other common causes of cognitive disorder include substance abuse and physical injury. When an area of the brain that determines cognitive function is damaged, either by the excessive use of drugs, by alcohol or from physical trauma, those neurophysiological changes can result in cognitive dysfunction.

 

Subjective cognitive impairment (SCI), also known as subjective memory disorder, is when a patient reports a worsening of their thinking abilities, including memory, but the decline cannot be verified by standard tests.

 

Cognitive disorders are a category of mental health disorders that primarily affect learning, memory, perception, and problem solving, and include amnesia, dementia, and delirium. … Causes vary between the different types of disorders but most include damage to the memory portions of the brain.

 

Mild cognitive impairment is an ever-growing concern that affects many individuals and all of society. It can be recognized, and it can be prevented. MCI can bereversed in its earliest stages by using proactive lifestyle measures, and its advanced affects can be reduced with effective medical treatment.

 

What is a neurocognitive disorder?

A neurocognitive deficit is a reduction or impairment of cognitive function in one of these areas, but particularly when physical changes can be seen to have occurred in the brain, such as after neurological illness, mental illness, drug use, or brain injury.

 

Subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) in older persons is a common condition with a largely unclear prognosis. Many older adults (age ≥65) express concern about mild cognitive problems—“senior moments”—such as word-finding difficulties and forgetfulness.1Individuals may wonder if walking into a room only to forget why might be the first sign of dementia. Some older adults try to counteract these memory problems by engaging in brain exercises—including costly computer games—and taking OTC “brain-enhancing” vitamins, herbal remedies, and other supplements.

 

Computer Savvy Could Boost Cognition

So-called digital literacy—being able to browse the web, send e-mails and operate basic computer programs—may slow down cognitive decline in middle-aged and older adults, according to recently published study of aging Englishmen (and women).

Researchers from the University College London followed more than 6,400 people aged 50 and older for eight years, periodically assessing their overall physical and mental health, as well as their ability to perform various activities of daily living.

The average cognitive capacity of the participants decreased over the course of the study, and this decline was especially marked in people who had scored lower on their baseline cognitive assessments. But, no matter where an individual fell on the cognitive scale at the beginning of the study, people who were digitally literate experienced less mental erosion than their non-computer-savvy counterparts.

“This is the first major study to show that being digitally literate can improve memory,” declare study authors. They also note that a separate investigation into the benefits of digital literacy indicated that being able to operate a computer properly lowered a person’s risk for developing problems with performing instrumental activities of daily living—housework, medication management, shopping, etc.—as they aged.

Prevent Depression with Digital Pursuits

A few hours online could also reduce an older adult’s chances of succumbing to the twin plagues of loneliness and depression by more than 30 percent, says a recent analysis published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

 

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