Seniors’ Brains Benefit from Purpose, Research Says


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“Ever since my 75-year-old father died, my mother has been listless and adrift. She used to have so many passions in life, and now that Dad is gone she seems to have lost her spark for life. I am concerned, but I don’t know what to do about it. She is in excellent health otherwise.”

Try to convince your mother to visit her doctor. She could be experiencing depression, which is certainly a logical reaction after the death of a loved one.

Having a strong sense that her life has meaning and direction may make your mom less likely to develop blockages in blood flow that could potentially lead to damage as she ages, according to recent research of seniors with an average ge of 84, reported in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.

“Mental health, in particular positive psychological factors such as having a purpose in life, are emerging as very potent determinants of health outcomes,” said Patricia Boyle. Ph.D., study co-author and associate professor of behavioral sciences at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Researchers analyzed autopsy results on 453 people, average age 84, who volunteered for the Rush Memory and Aging Project and underwent annual physical and psychological evaluations until they died, at an average age of 90. Researchers measured microscopic infarcts, damaged tissue that may contribute to dementia, movement problems, disability, and death as people age. Infarcts occur when a blockage interrupts blood flow in a vessel within the brain, resulting in a stroke or damaged brain tissue.

Participants who had reported a stronger purpose in life were 44 percent less likely to have these infarcts.

Try to do what you can to bring back your mom’s zest for life. Contact your local Home Instead Senior Care® to discover how a CAREGiverSM could help your mom rediscover her passion. And, since she is in such excellent health, perhaps she could find a new purpose in life as a Home Instead® CAREGiver. The local office hires seniors who can make a difference in the lives of older adults who need help.

To learn more about your local Home Instead Senior Care® office, contact us at 419-472-8181 or go to HomeInstead.com/324. For more information about the research, visit http://blog.heart.org/having-a-purpose-in-life-may-improve-health-of-aging-brain/.  

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