As we age, it is important to take care of both our body and our minds. Mood disorders, including depression, have been linked to cognitive decline and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. Here we explore these findings and tips to combat loneliness, a major contributor to depression in individuals 65 and older.
The study, led by research teams from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, used data from over 8,300 adults aged 65 and older participating in the U.S. Health and Retirement Study. Participants in the study underwent regular testing every two years from 1998 to 2010. Tests recorded their levels of depression, loneliness, memory, cognitive function and social network status. Of the 8,300 participants, 1,400 reported loneliness at the beginning of the study and about half of the 1,400 also reported clinical depression.
By the end of the 12 year study, the research team found that participants who had reported loneliness experienced cognitive decline at a rate 20% faster than those who had not reported it. Individuals who had reported clinical depression also had an increased rate of cognitive decline. These findings suggest that depression and loneliness are correlated with an increased risk of cognitive decline over an extended time.
Engaging in social networks, whether it’s a gardening group, bridge group or just getting together with friends, can help fight depression and loneliness but can also become increasingly difficult as mobility and transportation issues arise with age.
Here are4 tips for staying social in your 60’s and beyond:
- Use Technology. Plan daily or weekly calls to catch up with loved ones and friends, or if you are more technologically savvy, use Facebook or email to stay in touch. Texting and messaging applications on mobile phones can be easy to use and help you stay connected on the go.
- Organize Weekly Activities. Round up neighbors, friends and loved ones to meet weekly and engage in an activity you all enjoy. We recommend neighborhood walking groups or indoor activities such as card games, charades or movie nights!
- Find Transportation. Download applications like Uber or Lyft on a smart phone to avoid the hassle of calling a taxi and for lower rates. These apps will make getting to and from exercise or community center classes, grocery stores or meetings with friends easier and more efficient.
- Hire a Companion. A reputable home care agency can provide companions to meet up daily or weekly. Enjoy a companion’s company in the comfort of home or when going out – they are flexible to your schedule, needs and preferences and will make your favorite activities more enjoyable and accessible.
Try our tips to combat loneliness and promote brain health. Start socializing and enjoy a happier, healthier life!