Positive mental wellbeing is related to better brain health among older adults and can even reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline later in life – according to a new report launched by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH).
Age UK, a founding collaborator in the GCBH, is highlighting the evidence contained in the report, which shows that feeling good, functioning well and being able cope with life’s challenges are all related to better brain health as we age.
On the other hand, poor mental wellbeing – like having feelings of hopelessness and pessimism – may interfere with the ability to think and reason as we get older, how we interact with others and how we manage emotions.
The good news is that, in the same way that living a healthy lifestyle can improve physical health, we can improve and maintain mental wellbeing as we age by living healthily, learning how to manage stress and anxiety, and engaging in things that give us a sense of purpose.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Even though some people’s thinking skills can decline as we get older – it isn’t an inevitable part of ageing, and we’re learning more and more about what impacts on brain ageing, and what we can do to maintain good brain health later in life.
“The importance of this report is the connection it makes between positive mental wellbeing and better thinking skills in later life, because our sense of mental wellbeing is something we can take steps to improve in the same way that avoiding things like smoking, excess alcohol or a poor diet can help to reduce the risk of developing some forms of dementia and cognitive decline”.
Based on the evidence available in the report, the GCBH states that:
- Greater mental wellbeing is associated with reduced risk of dementia.
- It is possible to improve your sense of mental well-being, regardless of age or physical condition.
- Relating well to others and having good emotional control are key to mental wellbeing.
Age UK recommends the following steps to look after emotional wellbeing as we get older.
These steps include:
- Visiting friends or family, and if you can’t visit in person, phone or Skype them. Try to establish meaningful connections with people in your community, such as your neighbours.
- Try to take part in a new activity or do something you enjoy every day. Find things that make you laugh, such as humorous movies, books, or online videos.
- Staying active can help to improve your mood – light exercise or even moving just a little bit more can help. Try to seek out group opportunities and exercise opportunities particularly outdoors.
- Eat healthy foods and try to cut back on alcohol consumption.
- Try becoming a regular volunteer. Volunteering helps provide a sense of purpose in life, which may ward off anxiety, depression, loneliness, and social isolation.
- Relax, breathe deeply and try to get seven to eight hours sleep a night. Try to disconnect by staying away from all digital screens before before bedtime and avoiding watching TV in bed.
How Age UK helps
Age UK runs a range of social activities and services to help support older people maintain social connections and reduce feelings of loneliness. Find out what is available in your area here: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/services/in-your-area/social-activities/ or call our information and advice line 0800 169 6565.
You can also download ‘Your Mind Matters’ our free guide on improving mental wellbeing: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/information-guides/ageukig56_your_mind_matters_inf.pdf
For more information about brain ageing and the risk and protective factors visit: