Cognitive Health and Older Adults - Landmark Senior Living


Mar 07 2019

Cognitive Health and Older Adults

Post by: Joe Gilmore

Cognitive health, the ability to think clearly, learn and remember, is important for people of all ages, but maintaining proper brain functioning is a major factor for ensuring quality of life for older adults. There are a variety of methods that anyone can take advantage of to help improve your overall brain health. For example, physical activity, eating healthy, and learning new skills are all things that have been proven to help with thinking capabilities and brain health maintenance.

Genetics, environmental, and lifestyle choices are all factors that can influence your brain’s cognitive performance. While genetics are unchangeable, some small changes to the way you live can go a long way toward promoting a healthy brain. Quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol and improving sleep quality are a few of the things that you can do to help improve brain health.

Healthy Brain

Overall, cognitive health is important for performing mental processes like judgement, language, memory, and learning. Along with a cognitive health, there are three other major components to a healthy brain: motor function, emotional function, and sensory function. Simply put, motor functions helps you with making and control movements. Emotional functioning is characterized how you can interpret and respond to emotions. Sensory function refers to how well you are able to feel and respond to sensations, such as pressure, pain, and temperature changes.

Maintaining Cognitive Health

Physical Activity

A woman rolling up a yoga mat used for exercise and maintaining cognitive health.

Physical exercise is recommended for people of all ages, not just older individuals. However, physical activity is one of the best ways to maintain cognitive health, and overall brain health. There have been a number of studies that show just how beneficial exercise can be for the brain. For example, one study demonstrated that exercise can help to increase the size of the brain and improve memory. Other studies have shown that exercise can help the brain maintain old network connections and improve learning and spatial memory.


Bowls of fruit along side bowls of freshly made oatmeal are instrumental for ones cognitive health.

Maintaining a healthy diet can help to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, like heart disease or diabetes, and may also help to keep your brain healthy. The National Institutes of Aging recommends that for a diet that promotes healthy brain functioning, people should be eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, low-fat, and non-fat dairy products. It is also important to limit solid fats, sugar, and salt. One of the most important things you can do to help not only reduce the risk of disease, but to also regulate weight is to control portion sizes. Eating too much can cause a lot of weight gain which can lead to a number of adverse health effects.

Keeping the Brain Busy

A cup of coffee next to an open book. Reading a book is a great way to keep the mind busy while maintaining cognitive function

It is also important to keep the brain engaged in meaningful and thought worthy activities at all ages, such as volunteering or hobbies. Many who do these things say that they feel happier and healthier. Learning new skills can help improve thinking. For example, one study found that older adults who decided to learn quilting or photography had more memory improvement than those who socialized or did less cognitively demanding activities.

Generally, older adults know that physical activity can help protect cognitive health, however, many do not understand how much of a role that nutrition can play in the matter. In fact, many participants in a Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey, said that they were more skeptical about the link between diet and cognitive health and they were more sure of the link between exercise and cognitive health.

Risks To Cognitive Health

While genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors are all thought to influence cognitive health. Many of these factors may contribute to a decline in thinking skills and ability to perform some everyday tasks like driving, paying bills, using medication, cooking, and more. While genetic, or inherited factors, cannot be controlled as they are passed down from parent to child, environmental and lifestyle factors can be changed to help maintain cognitive health down the road.

Some of these factors include health problems, brain injuries, drinking too much, smoking, sleep problems, and more.


Smoking cigarettes is a habit that has horrible effects on your overall health. Many older adults may think that “I’ve been smoking for years, what’s the point of quitting now?” but it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been smoking, quitting smoking at any time will improve your health. Quitting will likely add years to your life, allow you to breathe more easily, give you more energy, and will help you save money. Smoking is proven to shorten life, it causes about twenty percent of the deaths in the United States each year. Smoking is known increase chances of:

  • Lung disease
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer (liver, colon, lung, oral, esophagus, and more)
  • Respiratory problems
  • Osteoporosis

If you or a loved one is having trouble quitting smoking it can be helpful to talk with a doctor.

In Conclusion

Brain health is a serious matter for people of all ages, and if the proper precautionary steps are not taken, it can lead to major brain deterioration in the future. Cognitive functioning is one the of the most important functions of the brain as it controls judgement, learning, memory, and more. Luckily, there are a number of things that people can do help improve their cognitive, and overall brain, health. For example, regular exercise, eating healthy, and keeping the brain stimulated are all ways that you can help to improve physical and mental health. For many older individuals, these things may be difficult, especially if they are having difficulty performing day-to-day tasks.

At Landmark Senior Living, we can give you or your loved one the care that they need and deserve at this stage in their life. We help to keep our residents healthy and mentally stimulated with our care staff and the social activities that we plan for our facilities. If you are interested in learning more about Landmark, please visit our website at and reach out to our admissions staff to schedule a complimentary walkthrough of one of our many facilities.

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