Tag Archive for: Ryan Frederick

Longevity expert Ryan Frederick

Longevity Expert Ryan Frederick

Ryan Frederick, Founder & CEO of Here and a Nexus Fellow, is an internationally recognized thought leader, speaker, author, innovator, developer, and strategy consultant specializing in the intersection of place and healthy longevity. He has educated tens of thousands of consumers through keynote talks, workshops, videos, blogs, online assessments and his book, Right Place, Right Time.

Healthy longevity is challenging in modern times. We are less likely to have a support team in close proximity.

“We have more people living longer without this infrastructure or support of extended families. People are having fewer kids, and those kids are less likely to be geographically approximate to where they are.”

Living longer better is more than just genetics. Where you live matters significantly.

“We need to find a way to successfully age. Your genetics only account for 30% of your longevity. It’s more about those social determinants of health we hear about. It’s lifestyle, it’s environment, it’s social connection, it’s physical wellbeing, it’s financial wellbeing, it’s being engaged in your community.”

Ryan has worked with Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, AARP, LeadingAge, and more, and has been featured on CBS News, Forbes, The Washington Post and more. If you’d like to learn more about Ryan, visit Here.

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Group of Senior Friends

8 Reasons to Be Optimistic About the Fight Against Ageism

American popular culture worships youth, and our governmental policies aimed at supporting older adults are far from perfect. But there’s still good news when it comes to society’s attitudes toward aging. We asked Nexus Insights Fellows to name one reason to be encouraged about the fight against ageism in the U.S.

8 Reasons to Be Optimistic About the Fight Against Ageism

  1. “I am encouraged that ageism is now part of the national conversation. That wasn’t the case even five or ten years ago. Now we see universities including ageism in their aging services curriculum, multiple books being published on the topic, and even female celebrities embracing their gray hair and aging process. We have a long way to go in driving real change, but awareness is the first step.” – Jill Vitale-Aussem
  2. “Aging is one of the most unifying human experiences we have. I find hope in the elevated value of intergenerational engagement: the parent who returns to a new career after raising their children and is embraced by the team; the college student who chooses to live in a senior living apartment instead of the dorms. We have more opportunities now than ever to engage with people of all ages.” – Sarah Thomas
  3. “As young people are becoming increasingly aware of the probability of longer lives — century-long lives in some cases — more young people are seeing the ways in which our society needs to be redesigned to help them thrive over their life course. In such cases, these young people are acting in their self-interest but to the betterment of society more broadly.” – Ryan Frederick
  4. “I love what Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been doing to uplift aging. Brava!” – Jacquelyn Kung, PhD
  5. “Following the pandemic, I am encouraged by the interest in taking on challenges related to older adults that we have ignored for decades.” – David Grabowski, PhD
  6. “A decade ago at a White House Correspondents dinner, actress Helen Mirren lamented to me that there were no good roles for women over 50 in Hollywood. It’s been heartening to see a proliferation of smart, savvy films and TV shows featuring people over 50. Maybe Hollywood can save D.C. and do a film about a smart, savvy older politician?” – Jay Newton-Small
  7. “What I find encouraging today is that people of all ages are speaking out about ageism; not just older people. It’s that intergenerational effort that will ultimately extinguish ageism in our culture.” – Sara Zeff Geber, PhD
  8. “I am encouraged whenever I see people admit and own their age. That act helps others recognize that the person speaking is much more than a number (age).” – Dr. Bill Thomas

We also asked our Fellows to name what they think is the most damaging example of ageism in the U.S.

8 Ways Ageism Damages Our Society

  1. “Most damaging to the fight against ageism is our language. Our language reflects how we think, so when we can extinguish terms like ‘little old lady,’ ‘geezer,’ ‘over the hill,’ and ‘granny,’ we will have made a worthy start on changing the images people hold in their minds about older adults.” – Sara Zeff Geber, PhD
  2. “Ageism leads many to believe that caring for older adults is not everyone’s responsibility. Caregiving will always be a family issue, but it is also a policy issue. We should prioritize policies that improve housing, long-term care, and health care for older adults.” – David Grabowski, PhD
  3. “The most damaging example is the assumption that as we age, we have nothing left to contribute to our communities and society. The term ‘silver tsunami,’ for example, frames our growing cohort of older adults as a disaster, assuming that older people are nothing more than a drain on society. This messaging seeps into the minds of policy makers, aging services providers, and each of us as aging human beings.” – Jill Vitale-Aussem
  4. “Equating aging with decline creates a perverse, self-fulfilling prophecy that cuts older people off from their full developmental potential.” – Dr. Bill Thomas
  5. “I believe that the weaponization of age — particularly accusations of cognitive impairment as political cudgels — was incredibly damaging and stigmatizing for anyone grappling with that diagnosis.” – Jay Newton-Small
  6. “Ageism has limited our ability to design places — from metropolitan areas to neighborhood blocks to housing — that are welcoming and inclusive to people of all ages and abilities. The result is that there are fewer intergenerational relationships and older people may need to move away from their ‘home.’” – Ryan Frederick
  7. “Aging is not a disease. All too often we succumb to society’s ageist pressures to attempt to halt or reverse the aging process. The anti-aging movement that applies unnatural filters to every photo we take and pushes a definition of beauty that revolts against nature is dangerous. This unhealthy view of aging begins to damage society in our youth and we carry the burden of these unhealthy pressures for decades.” – Sarah Thomas
  8. “When I hear older adults described as ‘cute,’ I cringe.” – Jaquelyn Kung, PhD

 

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Ryan Fredericks launches Here to Embrace the Role of ‘Place’ in Healthy Longevity

Here is Finally Here: Ryan Frederick’s Organization, Here, Embraces the Role of ‘Place’ in Healthy Longevity

Did you know that life expectancy in 1900 was only 50 years old? In 2050, it’s expected to rise to 94. What contributes to this increased longevity? It’s not just better genes. In fact, only 20% of longevity is attributed to genetics. The remaining 80% is linked to lifestyle and environment.

Ryan Frederick, a Nexus Fellow, is a nationally recognized thought leader in the intersection of place and healthy longevity. He’s putting the spotlight on the fundamental role of where people live to optimize the odds of a long, healthy and financially secure life. In 2021, he authored the acclaimed book, Right Place, Right Time (Johns Hopkins University Press).

“Where you live and how you choose to engage where you live is one of the most important decisions in life,” says Frederick. “If you are concerned about living a long, healthy and financially secure life, start with finding your right place and good things will follow.”

With the acceptance of remote work, climate change risk and political polarization, finding the right place to live and thrive has never been more important and more urgent. This has been an impetus for Frederick to rebrand and rename his organization (SmartLiving 360) as ‘Here’, in order to better fit the company’s goals and mission. Here is a platform that provides consumer tools for individuals of all ages to make better informed decisions about the role of place. In addition, Here consults with leading real estate, finance and health entities focused on creating better places for people to thrive.

Frederick envisions that Here will help spark a movement that makes place equally foundational to an individual’s longevity as healthy eating, exercise and financial planning.

Are you in the right place for a healthy, long, fulfilling life? Get your results by taking “The Right Place, Right Time” assessment at here.life/assessment.

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Longevity in Aging

Longevity in Aging: The Need to Address Healthspan and Wealthspan

People are living longer, and that’s a good thing. It’s not unusual or uncommon for people to live into their 90s. But how is their quality of life? Are they in good health? Can they afford living expenses? As lifespan increases, it is critical we pay attention to healthspan and wealthspan. According to Nexus Fellow Ryan Frederick, CEO of SmartLiving 360, healthspan is “the number of years we live in good health,” and wealthspan is “the number of years we have the financial means to support our desired lifestyle.”

“Advances in longevity create the prospect of longer, healthy lives but will we be purposeful, socially connected, and financially secure over these additional years?” – Ryan Frederick

In part three of the Six Key Drivers Shaping the Future of Senior Living, Nexus Founder and NIC Co-Founder and Strategic Advisor, Bob Kramer, also remarks on the effect longevity will have in terms of where Boomers will choose to live.

“Purposeful longevity means our new customers are determined to thrive,” said Kramer. “They are looking for community and a sense of connection. I call it the ‘engagement’ concept of retirement and aging which focuses on purpose, experience, and enjoyment. Paraphrasing a report by the McKinsey Health Institute, our customers aren’t just looking to add years to their lives but add life to their years.”

So how do we improve the quality of life for older adults?

“Researchers point out that longevity is largely driven by our lifestyle rather than our DNA,” wrote Frederick in a SmartLiving 360 blog post. “By some estimates, lifestyle and our environment account for about 93% of our longevity outcomes. Therefore, we have agency over our longevity. Lifestyle decisions also impact our quality of life.”

Frederick goes on to say, the “key is making sure you are at the right place at your stage in life – and one of the reasons the average person moves a dozen times in their life. An openness to change and the ability to act – however overwhelming it can be – is critical to make sure where you live matches your needs and desires at a given time.”

Read more from Ryan Frederick on the SmartLiving 360 blog.

 

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Long-Term Care & Post-Acute Care

Navigating the Maze of Long-Term & Post-Acute Care: A Report by Nexus Insights

When an older adult experiences a crisis that requires post-acute or long-term care services and supports, they and their caregivers must make critical decisions, fast. What awaits them, however, is a maze of dead ends and poor information that stand in the way of getting the help they need.

“Older adults and their families enter a maze of twists and turns, dead ends, and wrong way streets when a life crisis forces them to consider their care options. Critical decisions about long-term care must be made quickly, with scarce information or resources, let alone supportive guidance to assist them in their time of crisis.” – Bob Kramer, founder of Nexus Insights

In February 2022, Nexus Insights hosted their inaugural ‘Nexus Voices’ session with 18 leading experts in the fields of aging policy, long-term care, senior housing and caregiver advocacy to talk through and tackle this issue.

The Outcome: A Nexus Voices Report

The result is the recently published report, “Where Am I, Where Do I Go: The Missing Entry Point to Long-Term Care Solutions for Older Adults and Their Caregivers”. This comprehensive and actionable report highlights the lack of infrastructure to help guide older adults and their families to long-term care services. The report proposes “Navigation Hubs” to help families understand their long-term care needs and select the best options for them. These hubs would serve as central doorways to existing supports and services—whether it’s home-based care, transportation or meal services, senior housing or nursing home care. The hubs would have a national presence but a hyper localized focus with counselors, or navigators, who understand the resources available in their communities and how to help older adults and their families access them.

“The factors that shape care decisions vary from family to family, but all families need an easy-to-use, accessible hub of information that clearly communicates the options that are available to them in their community,” said Anne Tumlinson, CEO of ATI Advisory and a contributor to the report. “With a growing number of older adults needing care, we have to act now to build the care infrastructure families need.”

Discussion participants outlined four primary responsibilities of the Navigation Hubs. They are:

  • Discover & Assess the long-term care needs of older adults, their families, and caregivers.
  • Educate older adults, their families and caregivers on the housing and caregiving support available to them as well as funding sources.
  • Select & Connect older adults with the best long-term care setting, supports, and services that meet their needs.
  • Reevaluate the needs of older adults as their health and financial statuses change.

“You can’t solve a problem until you’ve identified it and defined it,” said Kramer.

“Then you’ve got to define what are the key components of any solution. And we’ve laid that out with the navigation hubs and their four functions. And then we asked what we could learn from the failures and the successes of programs to date, to create our criteria. Finally, the path forward must be a joint effort involving both the public and private sectors. We demonstrated that there are aspects of differing programs from government-funded resource centers to tech-enabled employer options to private-pay models that could be incorporated into this solution.”

An Urgent Problem

In its conclusions, the report urges quick and decisive action to build navigation services for older adults that put families in the center. The family in crisis needs help now and cannot wait for lawmakers and government agencies to overhaul the long-term care infrastructure. This requires a national commitment to increased funding and an openness to reimagine existing solutions. Existing public, private-pay and employer-based programs could work together to make these hubs a reality by combining their infrastructure, experience and delivery models.

The Nexus Voices Participants

Nexus Insights Host Committee

  • David Grabowski, PhD, professor, Harvard Medical School, fellow, Nexus Insights
  • Bob Kramer, founder & fellow, Nexus Insights, co-founder, former CEO & strategic advisor, National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC)
  • Caroline Pearson, senior vice president, health care strategy, NORC at the University of Chicago, fellow, Nexus Insights
  • Sarah Thomas, CEO, Delight by Design/MezTal, fellow, Nexus Insights
  • Anne Tumlinson, CEO, ATI Advisory, fellow, Nexus Insights

Discussion Participants

  • Gretchen E. Alkema, PhD, former vice president, policy and communications, The SCAN Foundation
  • Alice Bonner, PhD, senior advisor for aging, IHI, and adjunct faculty, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing
  • Ryan Frederick, founder & CEO, Smart Living 360, fellow, Nexus Insights (facilitator)
  • Lindsay Jurist-Rosner, CEO, Wellthy
  • Ruth Katz, senior vice president for policy, LeadingAge
  • Sean Kelly, president & CEO, The Kendal Corporation
  • Suzanne Kunkel, PhD, executive director, Scripps Gerontology Center, Miami University
  • Katy Lanz, chief strategy officer, Personal Care Medical Associates
  • Brian Petranick, group president, Neighborly
  • Cheryl L. Phillips, M.D., president and CEO, Special Needs Plan Alliance
  • Paul Saucier, director, Office of Aging & Disability Services, Maine Department of Health and Human Services
  • John Schall, CEO, Caregiver Action Network
  • Bill Thomas, chief independence officer, Lifespark, fellow, Nexus Insights

Read the Long-Term Care Access Report

Read the full report
Read the executive summary
Read the press release

About Nexus Insights

Nexus Insights is a think tank advancing the well-being of older adults through innovative models of housing, community and healthcare. We are a diverse group of thought leaders and stakeholders in aging and healthcare. Our goal is to spark change by sharing innovation across traditional silos, convening leaders from differing perspectives and bringing positive, life-affirming ideas into the public domain.

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aging in place baby boomers

Why Boomers May (or May Not) Want to Age in Place

There are so many options between aging-in-place and a nursing home. Open-minded baby boomers should explore them all.

While many people plan to “age in place” and remain in their homes, it isn’t always the best plan, the best location, or the best house. It may not even be an option in later years when unexpected health or mobility issues, or even loneliness, play a factor. Does that mean the only other option is a skilled nursing facility? Absolutely not. According to an op-ed written in the Sun-Sentinel by Nexus Fellows Ryan Frederick and Sara Zeff Geber, PhD, other options include “age-friendly apartments, active adult communities, independent living senior communities, home-sharing, co-housing and accessible dwelling units (ADUs).”

What makes a place the right place, or the best place, when it comes to a happy life? Purpose, engagement, and social connection, according to findings from the Rush Memory and Aging Project. Frederick and Geber go on to explain how policymakers can support this, and how Boomers can make the right choice for their “bonus” years, the 21 years beyond retirement.

Read the full piece, ‘Aging in Place’ is not a plan. It’s denial – and it ignores an opportunity.

Ryan Frederick and Sara Zeff Geber are fellows of Nexus Insights, a think tank advancing the well-being of older adults through innovative models of housing and healthcare. Frederick is the author of “Right Place, Right Time: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Home for the Second Half of Life (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021). Geber is the author of “Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A Retirement and Aging Roadmap for Single and Childless Adults” (Mango, 2018).

 

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Right Place, Right Time

‘Right Place, Right Time’ Named Great Money Book By Next Avenue

Right Place Right Time by Ryan Frederick has been named one of Next Avenue’s 13 Great Money Books Worth Reading. The list was selected by Richard Eisenberg and “Friends Talk Money” podcast co-hosts Pam Krueger and Terry Savage.

Right Place Right Time discusses the significance that place plays in an individual’s health and happiness. Being in the right place can help promote purpose, facilitate human connection, catalyze physical activity, support financial health, and inspire community engagement. Conversely, the wrong place can be detrimental to health, as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted. In Right Place, Right Time, Ryan Frederick argues that where you live matters enormously―especially during the second half of your life.

In praising Right Place Right Time: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Home For The Second Half of Life, the authors wrote “Frederick’s book can be hugely helpful if you’re thinking about where to live, whether to downsize or how to age in place.” Eisenberg, Krueger and Savage are all personal finance authors. Their book list includes some newly published titles, like Right Place Right Time, as well as classics of the genre such as the quarter-century old title The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. Explore the entire list at Next Avenue.

Ryan Frederick is a nationally recognized thought leader, innovator, developer and strategy consultant in the field of aging and longevity. He is a Nexus Fellow and the CEO of SmartLiving360.

See full list of recommendations at Next Avenue.

‘Start with the Why’ by Ryan Frederick

If you’re developing real estate housing projects for baby boomers, there are many critical dimensions to think about. These will include making the financing case, addressing the customer value proposition, and more. But the best way to approach them all is to think more deeply about the reason you are doing what you do. The article below, “Start with the Why” by Ryan Frederick, originally appeared in the 2021 MFE Concept Community Report.

Simon Sinek became a YouTube sensation with his 2010 TEDx Talk, “Start with Why.” The video has been watched more than 55 million times, and his book with the same title is a New York Times best seller. The message is simple but powerful: The most successful companies provide a compelling reason for why they do what they do. This compelling reason drives customer loyalty, increases employee retention and builds an inspiring brand. Apple, one of the world’s most valuable companies with a market capitalization of more than $2 trillion, is an example of a company that has excelled with this philosophy at scale.

As real estate developers and investors consider creating communities and offering services for baby boomers, a cohort 78 million strong with ages ranging from 57 to 75, it is critical to start with the question, why? There are at least three dimensions to consider:

Start with Why: The Financial Decision—With such a large cohort, there will be plenty of people looking for housing options as they age. Demand is not in question. But there’s more. Older adults tend to move less than younger people such as millennial and Gen Z consumers. The benefit for apartment owners is that there is less annual turnover of residents. It is not uncommon for renters over 50 to stay five years or longer. In addition, older adults that elect to move into apartments out of choice— “renters by choice”—tend to spend more for living environments they desire. Some apartment buildings that target older adults through design and programming have shown to receive a rent premium over equivalent conventional multifamily peers. This premium can range from 15% to 30% or more in some cases. All in all, the financial opportunity represented by the boomers is an attractive one.

Start with Why: The Customer Value Proposition—While the outlook for demand is attractive, older consumers can be fickle. Prospective residents, especially those living in single family homes, need a compelling reason to move. Considerations can be bracketed into two categories: pull and push. Pull factors draw people to a residence, whereas push factors drive people out of their current residence. Examples of pull dimensions include attractive unit design that incorporates universal design principles, ample common spaces for activities and socialization, a friendly and lively cohort of residents and hospitality-oriented staff. Examples of push elements include an existing residence that is expensive and difficult to maintain, is difficult to navigate with stairs, is geographically distant from desirable amenities and risks social isolation and loneliness.

Older consumers are generally not on an urgent timetable to move, unlike young people who need a place to live when graduating from school or relocating for a new job and can’t afford to purchase a home. Those that do have an urgent need to move may have health risks driving a change, and apartment living may not be the best option for them. As a result, apartment buildings targeting older adults tend to take longer to absorb than conventional apartments even when the value proposition is clearly understood by prospective residents and their families. However, if the value proposition is not compelling and a project is age-restricted, thereby limiting the market size, lease-up risk can increase significantly.

Start with Why: Helping People Live Longer, Healthier and More Purposeful Lives. Following Simon Sinek’s core message, the most successful developers and investors appeal to a deeper purpose. Successful aging is driven primarily by wise lifestyle choices; only about 30% of longevity is linked to DNA. Purpose in daily life, social connectedness, physical activity and financial security are all linked to longer, healthier lives. Real estate developers and investors have an opportunity to create an environment that helps boomers thrive as they age. Such a mission not only appeals to prospective residents but can also draw and retain a passionate workforce and engage partners, such as architects and third-party service providers, in a deeper way. It can be noble work that helps people take advantage of longer lives and fill an important housing need between single family homes and senior living.

I have firsthand experience applying this framework. I created The Stories at Congressional Plaza, an age-friendly apartment community in Rockville, Maryland, in partnership with Federal Realty Investment Trust, a public retail REIT. From the beginning, we framed our project using the question of why. It influenced our brand, location, design, operating model and key hires. Not coincidentally, the effort was both financially successful and impactful for residents. In fact, one baby boomer described the decision to move into The Stories as one of the best decisions of her life.

Aging baby boomers represent a golden opportunity for real estate developers. But without the right approach, it is more likely to turn into a failed or missed opportunity. Be sure to start with why.

Ryan Frederick is the CEO of SmartLiving 360, a strategic consulting and development firm focused on age-friendly communities. He is the author of the book “Right Place, Right Time: The Ultimate Guide To Choosing a Home in the Second Half of Life,” published by Johns Hopkins University Press. More information is available at www.smartliving360.com.

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Experience design in senior living

Experience Design for the Often Undervalued Longevity Market 

For Sarah Thomas, CEO of consulting company Delight by Design, and a Nexus Insights Fellow, “experience design” is about creating “an engaging experience that brings value to the consumer and delights them throughout the customer journey.” This is especially true in the longevity market, a market Thomas says has been undervalued in the past, and which is where her company is focused.

Delight by Design works with firms that are looking to design more accessible products or more inclusive services, and investors who are looking to expand their portfolios. These organizations may need assistance in understanding the wants, needs and market opportunities for the older adult consumers. That’s where the Delight by Design team truly shines.

Thomas was featured recently in an article entitled, “How Tech and Common Sense is Bringing Experience Design to Senior Living” on the Senior Living Innovation Forum (SLIF) blog. “Applying my background as an occupational therapist,” Thomas told SLIF, “I focus on human-centered design to create environments and experiences where residents are living their best lives, not defined by age.”

According to Thomas, experience design can “help companies foster a sense of purpose, encourage community engagement, improve mental health, elevate physical activity, increase healthspan and lifespan.”

“We want it at the touch of a button with on-demand functionality, and we should be expecting the evolving consumer to want the same in senior living.”

Technology plays an important role in experience design, not for its own sake, but for how it can improve efficiencies and help consumers. “In Silicon Valley, we design products to replace the greatest caregiver of all—Mom!” Thomas said. “Bring me food, clean my house, make my bed, and drive me! We want it at the touch of a button with on-demand functionality, and we should be expecting the evolving consumer to want the same in senior living.”

Thomas predicts that tech-based experience design innovations will bring improvements across the entire senior living experience. She predicts that seniors, who are used to living in a high-tech world, will come to expect it. “We need more availability of basic tech-enabled experiences; we need to offer technology that reaches families beyond the walls of a resident’s community, includes more telehealth, counseling, dietary support, and increased access to other resources that improve quality of life across all dimensions of wellness,” she said.

Read the full article.

Sarah Thomas will discuss the importance of experience design at this year’s Senior Living Innovation Forum in October. Nexus Fellows Bob Kramer and Ryan Frederick will also be sharing their expertise as speakers.

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Mind games help with long-term brain health

Mind Games – Significance of Lifestyle Interventions to Prevent Cognitive Decline

Humans have long been looking for the fountain of youth. Medical advances mean that most of us can expect to live for a long time. But how we live is an important component of successful aging. Originally published in June, Mind Games is an essay that explores the current understanding of best practices for maintaining a healthy brain as we age.

With my first book coming out in the fall, I am paying more attention to bookstores. I’m finding an increasing number of titles related to aging. It’s probably not surprising as the bulge of baby boomers – the oldest of whom are now in their mid-70s – are looking to successfully age, where a longer life span is matched with a correspondingly long wealth span and health span.

A number of these books focus on brain health. It makes sense as, according to one prominent researcher, Alzheimer’s is the most feared disease, even more than cancer. The loss of independence is devastating and requires comprehensive assistance to manage life. The burden on caregivers, often a spouse or family, can be overwhelming, too. A long life span and wealth span may be of little use if health deteriorates significantly.

It’s no surprise that the recent approval of Aduhelm, Biogen’s new drug for Alzheimer’s, has received significant attention. Its impact could be transformational for millions of people, perhaps with a greater impact on society than the vaccines produced to combat COVID-19. While critics point to scant evidence of its impact on the disease, if successful, it could usher in a new wave of effective innovations to fight cognitive decline.

“We may be soon entering an era without dementia. It could arguably be just as significant as a world without cancer. Such a milestone would be one of mankind’s great achievements.”

Significance of Lifestyle Interventions to Prevent Cognitive Decline

The good news is that many of us can take measures to prevent or delay cognitive decline without relying on a pill. A range of lifestyle interventions can reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment, characterized as problems with memory, language, thinking or judgment, as well as the risk of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. Mild cognitive impairment is often a precursor to dementia.

Diet

We are learning more about the role of a healthy diet to help prevent dementia. The MIND diet, which is a variant of the Mediterranean Diet, focuses on whole grains, berries, green, leafy vegetables, other vegetables, olive oil, poultry and fish. Researchers have found that strict adherence to the MIND diet for older adults resulted in about a 50% decrease in Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Even more encouraging is that you don’t have to be rigorous in adhering to the diet to experience a positive impact. Simply eating fish once a week and incorporating greens into a meal each day could be an achievable goal that makes a difference.

Exercise

Scientists are still determining the causes of mild cognitive impairment, but some evidence suggests that a reduction in blood flow to the brain can be a factor. Regular exercise amplifies the healthy flow of blood to the brain while exercising and afterwards. Recent studies show that regular brisk walking is particularly effective in helping older adults with mild cognitive impairment. As last month’s blog emphasized, it’s valuable to move regularly, even if the measures are as simple as taking stairs or parking farther away when shopping or commuting.

Social Connection

The impact of loneliness has been well-documented: it has been found to be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and can increase the risk of premature death by as much as 30%. But loneliness is particularly harmful to the brain. Studies have shown that loneliness can increase risks of dementia by 26% and mild cognitive impairment by 105%. Regularly reaching out to friends, whether they live close by or far away, could have a greater impact on your brain health than you realize.

Sleep

Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day. Sleep helps cement positive memories, mollify painful ones, and meld past and present knowledge, inspiring creativity. Conversely, insufficient sleep wreaks havoc. Insufficient sleep, or routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night, increases the odds of dementia. As we age, we tend to sleep less efficiently and wake up earlier, so it is important to go to bed earlier.

Hearing

Hearing loss has been shown to be a factor in cognitive loss and may also be one of the biggest potentially reversible factors. Hearing loss for a long period causes shrinkage to areas of the brain associated with memory. Proper diagnosis of hearing loss is important, as are interventions such as hearing aids.

Don’t Forget the Role of Place

Place has important direct and indirect impact on our brain health. Some places are objectively poor for our cognitive health. One study found that living near major roads is linked to an increased risk of neurological diseases, including dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis. It is believed to be caused by excessive exposure to air pollution and the incessant noise of vehicles.

Place also has an indirect role, by nudging us to healthy lifestyles. A pervasive culture that values healthy eating makes it easier to eat healthy; environments that are conducive to exercise embedded in the normal course of life are beneficial; areas that promote social connection amongst neighbors can help stave off social isolation and loneliness.

An Era Without Dementia

With advances on various fronts, we may be soon entering an era without dementia. It could arguably be just as significant as a world without cancer. Such a milestone would be one of mankind’s great achievements. As Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, Director of the Neurocognitive Disorders Program at Duke University School of Medicine and co-author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan, says, “It’s a hopeful time.”

But, even if Biogen’s Aduhelm is unsuccessful, we can be hopeful, because the right mix of diet, exercise, social connection, sleep and hearing may just be the antidote we need to keep our minds strong. And don’t forget the role of place, the foundation that helps pull it all together.


Mind Games was originally published on SmartLiving 360.

Place plays a significant yet often unacknowledged role in health and happiness. Ryan Frederick, CEO of SmartLiving 360 and a Nexus Insights Fellow is the author of the upcoming book Right Time, Right Place, in which he explores more deeply the idea that where you live matters enormously – especially during the second half of your life.

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