Thursday, April 30, 2009

Aging Myth: Seniors Become Senile

In looking at one of the myths of aging, seniors become senile, this struck a chord with me. I have witnessed the dementia of both my grandmothers and have wondered why they suffered through this, while my grandfathers, grandmother-in-law and other elders I've known have not.

The idea of dementia as inevitable in older adults is clearly inaccurate, though I never really challenged it before even though I had witnessed that senility was not universal nor guaranteed among seniors.

In the case of my one grandmothers, the causes of dementia stated in our reading (depression, over-medication, lack of intellectual/emotional stimulation) were clearly the root of her problems. However, my other grandmother did not experience those causes, and I now wonder if her form of dementia was not altogether something else – perhaps the onset of Alzheimer’s.

While it is inevitable that everyone ages, and looks and physical abilities change throughout the aging process, the one thing that I believe really puts a damper on enjoyment in later life is dementia. One cannot enjoy life if one is not of the mental ability to understand and interact with the world around them.

I believe more media coverage of these key causes of dementia could help the public to understand that this condition is not inevitable. Dementia is not guaranteed nor ensured by age. Additionally, the dietary and activity factors that help prevent or alleviate the decline in mental function would be important for people to be made aware of so they may incorporate them into their lives and the lives of those they love. Perhaps similarly to some of the foods that show heart healthy logos, those foods that help prevent or slow decline in mental function could also label their products.

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