I am exhausted thinking about my later years. So many studies -- it makes you breathless -- show a correlation between reduced incidence of dementia and certain behaviors. Do people who remain sharp choose these activities? Or do these activities help people remain sharp? Oops, sorry. Nobody really knows.
But as we anticipate the future, and newspapers capitalize on their and our impossible-to-calm fear of dementia, prepare to hustle.
- Get more education, volunteer, work. This is a neurology study from UC San Francisco published in June. Don't smoke, make it past the ninth grade, exercise once per week, do some sort of work or volunteering. Kings College, London: Work more, retire later.
- Try Wii Fitness. It's not just for teens. "Anything that gets your attention is better than something you get bored with. Research has shown that video and computer games interest people," said Dr. Michael Raab, a local geriatrician who works with Lee Memory Care in Fort Myers, FL.
- Get more physical exercise. And of course exercise will ward off dementia. Remember this study on the relationship between exercise and avoiding Alzheimer's (3x per week)? And remember, according to Kaiser Permanente research, girth doubles the risk.
- After 90, forget diet and exercise -- play bridge. From the NY Times, the Laguna Woods study: sharp 90-plus folks play 3 hours of bridge per day. Maybe it's the cards, maybe it's the social contact. From the article: "So far, scientists here have found little evidence that diet or exercise affects the risk of dementia in people over 90."
- Learn a new skill. Develop a hobby, from the NY Times -- like quilting. Maybe learn a musical instrument.
- Use cognitive training, puzzles. Looks like cognitive training can alter the brain, study used Cogmed. And doctors may prescribe -- June 15 USA Today. Check out sudoku in addition to crossword puzzles (but remember, do at least 4 days per week).
- Maybe not, have a drink. Oh well, new Lifespan study questions effectiveness of brain exercise tools for the elderly. But on that same page, this study caught my eye: A drink a day, turns out, may delay dementia, according to an Italian Longitudinal study on aging. Mostly wine, as a matter of fact.
Ah, those Italians. That one is hard to ignore.