Mind, Body, Spirit - The Cultural Value of Seniors - Part 2 Our Minds

by Philip Regenie

Dementia is an avalanche ripping itself through societies worldwide enslaving the young and embittering the old.  It is cruel and stealing our most valuable resource: wisdom.

So, how do we deal with this avalanche that could affect as many as two-thirds of our senior population? We must adopt a culture that promotes mental health to avoid the catastrophic health care consequences of a society riddled with dementia.  The problem is understood and solutions are readily available.

World Alzheimer Report 2015

Physical minds

Seniors are arguably our greatest source of wisdom. They have seen and experienced the full dimensionality of life and the history of the world for upwards of a 100 years. Their health and happiness is in large part determined by the health of their mind.  We are not speaking of their attitude, but of their physical mind: the electrical connections, the chemical makeup, the cellular communications, and the flow of materials in and out of their cranium. The mind, is our bastion of consciousness and is the reason for our heart beating, our lungs breathing, and all the activity that manifests itself as life.  The mind is responsible for the commands that create the habits of:

  • Eating for proper nourishment, avoidance of poisons, and the balance of nutrients for metabolic activity
  • Exercising the body to maximize bone density, blood flow, oxygen diffusion, and detoxifying the buildup of toxins in our mind and body
  • Sleep that controls metabolic activity, removes toxins from the mind, and organize short and long term memory
  • Mental exercise, learning, and awareness that construct the network of neurons that maximize our potential for understanding relationships between seemingly disassociated mechanisms
  • Meditation which calms the heart, controls the breath, and cleanses the mind
  • Happiness which is often a consequence of appropriate levels of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins

Brain chemicals

For all of us, and especially for seniors, we need an ecosystem of humanity that promotes high-quality mental health by focusing on  the production of key chemicals in our brains. Clark Buckner wrote an article about the 4 Chemicals That Activate Happiness, and How to Gamify Them using Nicole Lazzaro's research on fun.  Here is how we promote the chemical well-being of our seniors.

Dopamine, often thought of as the pleasure chemical is now thought of more as the anticipation and motivation molecule.  Dopamine is a neurotrasmitter moving between the synaptic clefts between the 86 billion neurons in our brain binding to dopamine receptors.  It acts as both an excitatory and inhibitory molecule. Dopamine:

  • boosts your drive, focus, and concentration
  • enables you to plan ahead and resist impulses so you can achieve your goals
  • gives you that “I did it!” lift when you accomplish what you set out to do
  • gets your competitive juices flowing and provides the thrill of the chase in all aspects of life — business, sports, and love
  • is in charge of your pleasure-reward system
  • allows you to experience feelings of enjoyment, bliss and even euphoria

Here is an excellent article on How to Increase Dopamine Naturally by Deane Alban.  

We can increase dopamine in seniors with things such as exercise, meditation, music, touch, sleep and diet.  Here is a list of foods that increase either tyrosine for dopamine directly:

  • animal by products
  • almonds
  • apples
  • avocados
  • bananas
  • beets
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • fava beans
  • green leafy vegetables
  • green tea
  • lima beans
  • oatmeal
  • olive oil
  • oregano
  • peanuts
  • rosemary
  • sea vegetables
  • sesame and pumpkin seeds
  • soy products
  • turmeric
  • watermelon
  • wheat germ

SMART Communities

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s and other dementias cost $236 billion annually. We can significantly reduce that number with lifestyle changes in senior environments including environmental changes, diet, exercise, meditation, and anxiety reduction.

Zanthion’s innovations focus on creating SMART Communities -- those that use technology to promote safety, mental and physical health, activity, rest, and togetherness.  If your assisted living community shares our vision to create SMART Communities, please connect with us. Let’s work together to truly improve quality of life for everyone (#QOLFE).

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