How Does Aging Affect Cognitive Function?

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When we consider aging, most people just think of the effects of age on physical health. However, the brain is also a part of the body that can be altered by age. This part of aging is often ignored unless it develops into dementia, but even perfectly healthy seniors can expect some changes in the way their brains function. As seniors age, their cognition is often affected in the following ways. 

Mental Flexibility Abilities Decrease

Mental flexibility refers to the cognitive ability to change the way of thinking, especially when encountering new data. This ability is highest in very young children, and it gradually diminishes as people age. Decreased mental flexibility can make it difficult for seniors to learn new skills or change their preconceived notions, so they tend to get a little set in their ways. Seniors often find it challenging to reason when they encounter unfamiliar materials. 

To promote your loved one’s mental health and wellbeing, consider hiring an at-home caregiver. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of in-home care. Frederick families can rely on Assisting Hands Home Care to provide individualized care plans to meet their elderly loved ones’ unique care needs. Our caregivers help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and we offer mentally stimulating activities that can boost cognitive health and delay the onset of dementia.

Processing Speed Slows

Processing speed is the rate at which the brain performs various cognitive tasks, and it begins slowing in a person’s thirties and continues to reduce over time. Seniors may end up taking longer to recall memories, needing a little extra time to process instructions, or spending more time trying to find the right words while communicating. Slowed processing speed can also affect things like reaction time, reflexes, and other motor responses.

Paying Attention Becomes More Difficult

Being able to focus on various stimuli is an important part of cognitive function, but it’s often difficult for seniors. Elderly people only have a slight reduction in the ability to focus on a single thing, but they tend to face difficulty with a cognitive process called selective attention, which means they may find it challenging to ignore irrelevant stimulation and perform complicated tasks, such as maintaining a conversation on the phone while driving a car. 

Cognitive decline can make it difficult for seniors to accomplish simple tasks like cooking and driving. Seniors can face a variety of challenges as they age, many of which can be mitigated with the help of professional in-home caregivers who provide high-quality elder care. Trust Assisting Hands Home Care to help your elderly loved one age in place safely and comfortably.

Certain Types of Memory Skills Are Reduced

One of the main complaints seniors have when discussing cognition is their memory. They may find it difficult to recall words, lists of figures, or practical knowledge. Interestingly, not all types of memory are diminished by old age. A senior’s ability to remember places and events from his or her life lessens steadily but gradually, while the ability to recall information and language decreases sharply as age increases. Memory skills that are more subconscious, such as riding a bike or singing a favorite song, don’t tend to diminish with age. 

Executive Functioning Challenges Increase

Executive functioning is a complex ability seniors need to do things like plan their days, think about steps needed to make meals, or figure out how to fit unexpected visits into their schedules. This ability drops quickly after the age of 75. Seniors may find they need to write steps down or receive prompts to properly care for themselves.

It’s important to boost your loved one’s mental acuity to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. However, you may have other responsibilities that prevent you from providing the care he or she needs. Whether your elderly loved one needs part-time assistance with basic household chores or you need a break from your caregiving duties, the Frederick respite care experts at Assisting Hands Home Care are here to help. All of our home care services are backed with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we never ask our clients to sign long-term contracts. To learn about our high-quality in-home care options, give us a call at (301) 786-5045 today.