Mid-March marks Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign that fosters enthusiasm and support for brain science. Starting on the 15th, schools and organizations host activities within communities that share the wonders of the brain and the impact science has made on everyday life. This week provides a great opportunity for American Indian and Alaska Natives to reflect on living an overall healthy lifestyle to promote brain awareness.
In Native American communities, the number of older adults is increasing. Having a large set of older tribal members is a blessing, as AI/AN culture has long valued elders for their wisdom, experience, knowledge and contributions to their communities. However, dementia is more common with advanced age, and as the older adult population grows, so too will the impact of cognitive impairment.
While the cause of dementia remains largely unknown, there is growing research that it may develop as a result of multiple factors over many decades. Some factors such as genetics cannot be changed, but there are many simple activities that keep a brain active and healthy. As an added bonus, ways you can help your elders stay healthy can actually benefit you too!
Consider these helpful tips to keep both your brain and those of your elders young.
- Stay active: Exercise helps maintain memory. Aiming for 30 minutes of walking each day can lower one’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Go on a trail with an elder you love.
- Keep mentally engaged: Putting together a puzzle or reading a book is a great way to reduce cognitive decline. Keeping your mind “running” is just as important in being physically active. Maybe do a crossword with an elder while waiting for dinner. Or you can consider reading them a book and having them draw as they listen.
- Stay connected: As one year of the COVID-19 pandemic lies just around the corner, we know that interaction is key. A strong social network within your community is linked with better overall health and longevity. Consider joining a group with other tribal members, whether it’s storytelling, beadwork or cooking cultural dishes. Even simply having a conversation over a cup of coffee is beneficial. Take time to bond with elders in your circle and give both your brains a boost!
There are more simple steps that can be taken to lower not only elders' risk of brain aging, but yours, too. Read this article to hear more!
Also be on the lookout this week for an interactive video and memory games to further exercise your brain!