Your muscles age. So do your joints and bones. You recognize this, try to do what you can and adapt to what you can’t change.
But when it comes to the brain, people tend to worry more.
In a wide-ranging report released last week, the Institute of Medicine – the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences – recommends that you relax a bit. Everything ages, even your brain. There are things you can do, and disaster is most likely not around the corner.
“Cognitive functioning in older adults can improve in some areas, such as those related to wisdom and experience, and it can decline in others, such as memory, attention and speed of processing,” the panel of experts wrote. “Individuals vary widely in the specific cognitive changes that occur with age, in the nature and extent of cognitive aging, as well as in the ways these changes affect daily life.”
Which isn’t to say that you can’t fight back or that the world around you shouldn’t adapt as a growing population of older folk copes with aging brains. “Cognitive decline affects not only the individual, but also his or her family and community, and an array of health, public health, social, and other services may be required to provide necessary assistance and support,” the panel wrote.
Such as? Financial institutions may need to take a more active role in helping older people manage their money and protect against the $3 billion in financial fraud and abuse committed against older people each year. Transportation departments may need to take into account slower decision-making and processing speeds of older drivers when they lay out or improve road systems.