~ 072410 2050: 1.1 Million Over 100 Years Old

Amy Sherman, Mclatchy-Tribune News Service

There was a recent article in my local paper about brain fitness and how to retain optimal brain function well into our senior years. As boomers, we are all concerned about moments of memory loss and wonder if we are experiencing dementia or other signs of cognitive impairment.

Chances are our memory loss is more about our ability to retrieve information and filter out unnecessary irrelevant material than it is about cognitive decline and illness. Because there's so much information bogging us down and distracting us, it becomes difficult to shut off the "noise" long enough to remember what we want to remember. That makes us feel forgetful and susceptible to those numerous senior moments.

However, we can't ignore that cognitive decline may happen, but we don't have to feel helpless to the aging process. Most researchers will agree that a challenged, stimulated brain will retain and regenerate brain cells and that translates into maintaining, restoring and revitalizing cognitive acuity well into the golden years of our lives.

Therefore, if you want to slow up the aging process, you may want to learn a new language, do crossword puzzles, play Sudoku or take piano lessons to reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.

Research is now taking aging a step further. Apparently, not only is it important to learn challenging new experiences, but it is important to do so in a social setting, connecting and interacting with others. The University of Southern California has been studying this concept with a group of seniors who are well into their 90s. The key to their brain health is their afternoon bridge game where they are required to maintain a strong focus by remembering the bidding, the dealt hands and the strategies of their partner.

These residents in Southern California are considered the most successful seniors in the world. In fact, this research is altering the way scientists are looking at the aging brain. While mental exercises and good diet can't hurt to keep you healthy and alert, it seems you need to be involved socially with others to maintain your cognitive alertness and acuity.

Successful aging is really based on lifelong choices, a good attitude and a keen sense of your life's purpose. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2050 there will be 1.1 million people 100 years old. Baby boomers who continue to train their brain on a regular basis are twice as likely to retain high cognitive function than someone who doesn't. This means that if you start now, you'll reap the rewards of a healthy, sharp, active brain for many fruitful years to come.

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Amy Sherman is a licensed mental health counselor and trainer. She is the founder of Baby Boomers' Network, a resource designed to give baby boomers the insights, information and inspiration they need to live their best lives. She is the author of the ebook, "Distress-Free Aging: A Boomer's Guide to Creating a Fulfilled and Purposeful Life" and "The Joy of Optimism 10-Lesson eCourse." To learn more, go to www.bummedoutboomer.com. Amy can be reached at amy@bummedoutboomer.com

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(c) 2010, Basil & Spice

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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