Elder happy people working out with colorful dumbbells

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – How our senses change as we age

Elder happy people working out with colorful dumbbells

As we get older our senses change. These changes take place in the organs themselves as well as the brain. Neurons naturally die, and we become less able to process information, store memories, and perceive sensations. We are less able to learn whether neurons die from nature or injury and disease. For example, organs like your eyes and ears start to deteriorate with age. Studies find that deterioration of sight may limit the ability to do exercises to strengthen the brain. Make sure to get your eyes and hearing tested after 55 to get the help you need!

Injury and disease can hasten this decrease in our brain cognition. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is diagnosed if two or more brain functions are significantly impaired. Functions like memory and language skills are the most typical. All forms of dementia involve neuron destruction. A stroke would be considered an injury. It happens in an instant when an artery breaks, or a blood clot cuts off blood flow to the brain. This causes brain cells to die. Retaining function depends on how quickly you receive medical attention. 

There are practical ways to combat memory loss. Exercise has been found to improve mild cognitive impairment. It seems also that different types of exercise have different effects on our brain. Weight training is a bit better for the ability to remember things in context, associative memory. Aerobic exercise works more on verbal memory. Scientists think that cathepsin B, which is released by muscles during exercise builds cells in the hippocampus, a brain region essential to memory. So, education, cognitive puzzles, sensory challenges and exercise will all help to improve blood flow to that most important organ, our brain. 

Believe it or not, some mental ability increases with age. Elderly brains typically have sharpened language skills and a larger vocabulary. Healthy mature brains perform as well as younger ones when it comes to any task requiring analysis, organization of information and planning. There may be a decrease in processing speed but we can still keep up with the young ones!

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago