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Are the Stereotypes True: The Effects of Divided Attention Declines in Older Adults on Every Day Activities

November 14th, 2022 No comments

Have you ever seen a meme or a video that depicts older adults not being able to drive, not being able to walk, not being able to remember things, or not being able to focus. These types of media are very present in our lives today, and are reflective of many of the stereotypes that surround older adults in our society today. But, have you ever taken a second to think about why these stereotypes exist, and why we are so quick to believe them? In other words, are there actually age-related changes or declines that older adults are experiencing that impact their ability to walk, drive, remember, or perform any other daily function, or is it just stereotyping of older adults that create these perceptions in our minds about how older adults perform on these tasks? Research about cognitive aging has provided us with insight into how our brain and cognitive functioning changes as a result of getting older, and how this in turn influences performance on a daily basis as we age. The field of cognitive aging is very wide, and research encompasses a wide variety of topics, including memory, perception, attention, language, prior knowledge, and much more. Additionally, a wide variety of theories have been carefully developed and researched to provide explanations for the declines that we see in older adults as they age. Although everyday functions for older adults such as driving, walking or memory could be influenced by declines in a wide variety of areas, present research about divided attention declines in older adults provide significant insight into how decline in divided attention impacts a variety of every day functions for older adults. 

https://imgflip.com/tag/old+people+driving

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Power of Song: The Effects of Music Therapy on Dementia

November 13th, 2022 No comments

In the US alone, there are more than 3 million cases of dementia per year. Worldwide, there are 50 million cases. Dementia is the culmination of cognitive functioning impairment that interferes with daily life; an overarching term that describes memory loss, difficulty with speech and comprehension, lack of judgment, impulsivity, etc. Dementia can range in severity, from the most mild stage of its beginning effects on an individuals cognition, to a complete inability to function independently with even the most basic activities of living. Though around ⅓ of all people aged 85 and older have some form of dementia, it is not a normal part of aging, and the causes are still unknown (NIH). By 2040, the number of 65 year old adults with dementia is expected to skyrocket to over 14 million (CDC), and by 2050, the worldwide number of 50 million is expected to triple. Though there are steps that can be taken in attempts to prevent dementia such as Alzheimer’s, once it is onset, it is not curable. However, it can be treatable– to an extent. I examined the 2020 Moreno-Morales et al. article titled Music Therapy in the Treatment of Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, in order to understand the positive effects exposure to music may have on the cognitive function of those who struggle with dementia.

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Categories: Aging Tags: ,

Will you waver over the same tough decision 20 years later? Cognitive dissonance is wove into the aging story.

November 13th, 2022 No comments

Do older adults more often feel relieved than younger people? A fair judgment from the developmental perspective would tell you that people in different stages of life confront different tasks and challenges. At early ages, you might have imagined how satisfying your life would be when you get older. Cognitive dissonance embodies the perception of contradictory information in one’s action, belief, and thought. Two lingering questions focus on the interaction of aging and cognitive dissonance. First, when people get older, will they similarly experience cognitive dissonance as their younger counterparts? If so, do older adults grow to deal with them with wise strategies? In the rest of the blog, I will unveil the underlying mechanisms of cognitive dissonance for older adults and how age-related cognitive functions interact with the dissonant experience. 

People incline to the comforting lies to resolve their cognitive dissonance. Picture is taken from https://www.thedailystar.net/shout/life/news/the-phenomenon-cognitive-dissonance-1685263

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Categories: Aging Tags: ,

There are more Technologies than an IPhone

November 13th, 2022 No comments

A long time ago in 2007, a disease that ravaged the world since the dawn of time was struck down in one of the many things it harmed. This disease was called… AGING. What happened in 2007? A technological advancement that allowed people with impaired eyesight to once more read. What was this invention? The Amazon Kindle. (This is not a paid ad). In all seriousness aging has many impacts on all of us, some positive and some not so positive. With age we develop experience and knowledge being able to face new experiences with our past to aid us. Routines allow us to be able to do things without even thinking. We can automatically get to work and remember none of the trip. But what if we do need to focus? That is where the issues arise. Aging is something many of us fear but the advent of new technology can help to reduce the impact it has on life. Aging not only affects us physically, but mentally as well. Our senses begin to dull making it more difficult to hear, see, and more. This can turn things that used to be easy into draining tasks and we only have so much energy we can expend. Some people have more than others due to many factors, like IQ, environment and more, but wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to do so much to achieve so little. For example reading to most people comes easy (after you learn how to do it of course). But once our vision declines this becomes a more difficult task as the words are too small to see clearly. 

What can technology do to aid this? Well first we made reading glasses, but those can only do so much for us. My parents still struggle to read even with glasses on. However reading tablets have the capability to change text to make it easier to read with contrast and size. Not only do reading devices have this, but also smartphones!!! These things are dynamic enough to aid in vision by changing the stimuli to be more accessible. Well what if I struggle to type things out on my device? We also now have voice activated technology, like siri, Alexa, and Google Home. These too are dynamic and change to be accessible for those using it. They can read things for older adults, raise the volume to allow older adults to hear more clearly, and answer questions older adults may have. These things reduce the impact controlled processing has, making it more automatic.

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Facetime your Grandpa! Cognitive Maintenance to Prevent Isolation

November 13th, 2022 No comments

My Grandfather is 91 years old. It’s hard to admit but too often growing up, I had the mentality that talking to him was too difficult or not relatable. He has hearing aids in both ears, struggles to hold a conversation with any background noise, and often takes a few extra minutes to understand what you’ve said. While this is a prime example of stereotyping an older adult (my bad), it also shows how certain age related deficits that can make socializing difficult.  

About 80% of older adults have age related hearing loss. Around 20% of older adults have age related vision changes. Many older adults also suffer from a speed of information processing decline. This means that they often take longer to process and give a response to a question or comment during a conversation.

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It’s Never Too Late to Learn a Foreign Language: Foreign Language Acquisition in Late Adulthood

November 12th, 2022 No comments

Speaking of learning a second language, do you think about the common saying “the earlier the better”? Have you ever wanted to start learning a new language and then stopped because of this saying? If your answer is yes, I suggest you cross the saying out of your mind because language learning is a complex process and it shouldn’t be determined by age. Second language acquisition is possible for all ages. Therefore, age should never be a critical determining factor when deciding whether to learn a foreign language or not. In fact, we should all start learning a new language for the sake of healthy and active aging because there are plenty of cognitive benefits in late adulthood if you can speak more than one language. And, many seniors are participating in foreign language learning classes in third-age universities around the globe right now.

Look how engaged the senior students are in a second language learning classroom in Heredia, Costa Rica. Picture retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/business/retirementspecial/learning-a-new-language-on-location.html
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Categories: Aging, Education Tags: ,

Are You Really Remembering It as All Sunshine and Rainbows? The Positivity Effect in Cognitive Aging 

November 12th, 2022 No comments

In a phone conversation with my mom following our family’s week-long trip to Sebago Lake this past summer, my grandma thanked my family for inviting her along for “the most wonderful week.” When my mom recounted this interaction to me, I couldn’t help but wonder whether my grandma had actually had such a “wonderful” week. After all, the vacation did not really go as planned: my brother left for Colby hall staff duties after only a day; I spent the bulk of the week alternating between doing remote internship work and sleeping to recover from my hectic summer job; my dad worked for almost the entire week, so we only saw him at meals; and, for the cherry on top, my grandma had recently suffered a severe compression fracture in her back that had left her in pain and fairly immobile. 

My grandma and me, circa 2017. She is the greatest!

It’s very possible that my grandma was just grateful for a week in close geographical proximity to my family, especially given she had been a fairly long drive away from us, cooped up inside with a broken back until right before the trip (she moved up near my family home a few weeks before our vacation). However, it is also possible that my grandma was actually remembering our trip in a positive way – maybe even in a more positive way than she had experienced it. Although I’ll never know which is true, my grandma may have been exhibiting the positivity effect in that phone conversation with my mom.

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Categories: Aging Tags: ,

Did COVID Take Away Your Social Life? It Could Have Taken Your Cognitive Function Too.

November 11th, 2022 No comments
https://residentialplaza.com/en/solutions-to-reduce-loneliness-and-improve-quality-of-life-in-the-elderly-affected-by-social-isolation-because-of-covid-19/

The COVID-19 pandemic was a very strange and disruptive time for people all over the world. During the pandemic, we were asked to stay home in order to prevent the spread of the virus. This social-distancing aspect of the pandemic was especially hard to get used to. For some people, social-distancing at home was a nice break from school and work, and maybe (if you’re like me) it was a time spent binging TV shows and movies on Netflix. For many others, however, it was a very isolating and worrisome time. Adults over the age of 60 are at an increased risk for COVID-19 infection, so they were likely to have more strict isolation measures and continued social distancing for a longer period of time than younger adults and children. Many older adults live in long term care facilities and you may think they would still be surrounded by a community of peers and health-care workers during the pandemic, but they were also placed under strict physical distancing measures. The CDC recommended limiting nonessential visitors to these facilities, including family, volunteers, and nonessential health care workers. This means that older adults were more likely to experience feelings of social isolation and loneliness, which has been shown to have a negative impact on cognitive function.

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Categories: Aging Tags: ,

I’m Gettin’ Me Mallet: Society’s Impact on Aging

November 11th, 2022 No comments

There are so many stereotypes associated with aging. Just about every negative trait is thrown at older adults while society hopes it sticks. Older adults are said to be lazy, grumpy, spiteful, closed-minded, forgetful, and slow. While the last two have some truth to them, the others are simply conjecture. On top of these there are of course positive stereotypes as well, like older adults being wise, kind, generous, and so on. Between these stereotypes there is a reality of social influence on behavior. Essentially, one’s social environment has an impact on their cognitive development, two ways of which I will attempt to highlight in this blog: through positive/negative environmental support and through internalized socialization.

This is a picture of Eustace Bagge from Courage the Cowardly Dog. Eustace is a prime representative of the stereotype of older adults being grumpy and stuck in their ways (Copyright Cartoon Network)
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Why You Probably Shouldn’t Cancel Your Plans

November 11th, 2022 No comments

You’re going to get old no matter what, but how you get old is a completely different story. Aging involves a lot of changes. To name a few, our hair may become grey, our hearing slowly gets worse, and reading a menu in dimly lit restaurants becomes a well fought battle. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “wow, aging sounds awful!” Sure, it kind of stinks to know that our cognitive processes will inevitably decline as we age (wow what a downer!) but the truth is, it’s just a normal part of life. Furthermore, there are actually ways to slow the decline of our aging. In other words, the idea of getting older doesn’t have to scare you.

Aging process of a man from toddler to elderly

When we get older, our cognitive abilities decline and don’t operate as they once did. Cognitive abilities include things like attention, memory, language, speed of processing and much more. They are crucial for everything we do, however, they can worsen over time which is why it is important to reduce the decline of these functions. As mentioned earlier, there are strategies that can be used to slow, or improve the effects of aging. A really great way to maintain your abilities is actually through socializing with other people. Yup, it’s as fun as it sounds. By hanging out with your friends, family, or anyone else in your life, you’re actually helping yourself in the long run.

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