Cognitive Fitness for Older Adults

Woman enjoys painting class with friends.

Posted: February 2, 2022

Written By: Chris Pogar | Executive Director of Cappella of Pueblo West

If we don’t exercise our bodies, our muscles lose their health or “tone.” While the brain is not a muscle, the same applies to our cognitive fitness—if we don’t use it, we lose it. The focus in senior living has begun to shift from prioritizing physical condition only to that of including cognitive fitness for older adults as well.

Author James L. Chen writes, “A brain that gets smaller and lighter with age can still function as effectively as a younger brain. For example, an older brain can create new connections between neurons if given the opportunity. There is evidence to suggest that mental abilities are ‘shared’ by various parts of the brain so, as some neurons die, their roles are taken up by others.” Evidence such as this helps support the notion that our minds don’t have to slow us down unless we let them.

Receiving physical care is often what attracts residents to senior living communities. However, at purpose-driven communities such as Cappella of Pueblo West, encouraging residents to discover or re-discover interests and passions is what helps them to thrive, both physically and cognitively. Providing residents with opportunities to achieve can keep the brain active and healthy. A Harvard Publishing study done in March of 2020 found that, “If you believe you can improve and you translate that belief into practice, you have a better chance of keeping your mind sharp.”

A common misconception about community living is that once a resident arrives, they are at the mercy of someone else. At our communities, residents enjoy the freedom to choose what they want to do. For example, they may create the life enrichment calendar and lead some of their own programs. This empowerment encourages ownership within the community and new growth within oneself. Residents find their purpose in the community, along with the benefit of keeping the mind active by practicing cognitive fitness.

Residents are sometimes challenged by focusing on what they used to be able to do. We offer alternatives that may open new doors and provide opportunities for learning and subsequently new brain growth! BBC author David Robson states, “Your brain still has an astonishing ability to learn and master many new skills, whatever your age. And the effort to master a new discipline may be more than repaid in maintaining and enhancing your overall cognitive health.”

Visit Cappella of Pueblo West and discover how community living can enhance your life and bring new opportunities for purpose and growth!

About the Author

Chris Pogar serves as Executive Director at Cappella of Pueblo West, a senior living community serving older adults and their families in southern Colorado.

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