News Release

September 26, 2006

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Stay Fit, Socialize, Exercise Your Brain

September – Healthy Aging Month

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Healthy aging is not just about exercise and staying fit. Mental and social well-being are vital components of living well, say experts at the UConn Center on Aging at UConn Health Center.

“There’s always a great deal of emphasis on exercise and mobility for older adults, and that is extremely important, but social activities and mental wellness have important roles as well,” said Patrick P. Coll, M.D., director of the James E.C. Walker M.D. Memory Assessment Program at UConn Health Center. “Isolation can lead to depression, which can contribute to memory loss and often a downward slide in overall well-being,” Coll said. “By staying in close contact with family and friends, volunteering, enjoying a hobby, older adults can help avoid isolation and loneliness.”

Exercise your brain, said Coll. He suggests learning a new language or how to play a musical instrument; doing crossword puzzles, brainteasers, playing Scrabble, etc.; reading and keeping up with current events; taking a class; and socializing.

For older adults or children who have concerns about a parent’s possible memory loss, Dr. Coll said minor degrees of memory loss are common with aging; however, there are differences between normal loss and loss due to a medical disorder that may be treatable. Stroke, depression, Parkinson’s disease, head injury and developmental disorders can affect memory. Victims of Alzheimer’s disease may benefit from new drugs. “It’s very important to evaluate individuals showing signs of memory loss so its cause can be determined and treatment prescribed if necessary,” said Coll.

Some signs of memory loss include; repetition of words, questions, or stories; forgetting things that usually come naturally; misplacing belongings; getting lost in familiar surroundings; a change in personality; and neglecting personal hygiene. “If these behaviors are observed, a comprehensive evaluation is recommended,” he said.

UConn Health Center’s memory assessment program provides a full range of services for patients who are concerned about memory related difficulties and for those who have been diagnosed with a memory disorder. Some of the other issues addressed by geriatric specialists include: safety issues including driving; optimal support services and living arrangements; surrogate decision-making, living wills, issues of conservatorship, and family support and counseling. Appointments may be scheduled at Geriatrics Associates, 860-679-8400. 

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