Enriching Environment May Delay Onset of Dementia

A new study published this week by researchers at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) shows that keeping the mind active, exercising and having a good social life boost a major molecular mechanism in the brain that can delay the onset of dementia.

Given that Engage As You Age is in the business of keeping seniors’ minds active through enriching, meaningful social interaction, we were quite pleased to hear about these results.

The study provides scientific evidence supporting the concept that prolonged and intensive stimulation by an enriched environment — especially regular exposure to new activities — may have beneficial effects in delaying one of the key negative factors in Alzheimer’s disease.

How? By preventing the toxic amyloid beta protein from weakening the communication between nerve cells and the brain’s “memory center” known as the hippocampus. The researchers, led by Dennis Selkoe, co-director of the Center for Neurologic Diseases in the Department of Neurology at BWH, say this could explain the exact mechanism in the body that is boosted by mental stimulation and can delay the onset of dementia.

“Prolonged exposure to a richer, more novel environment beginning even in middle age might help protect the hippocampus from the bad effects of amyloid beta, which builds up to toxic levels in 100 percent of Alzheimer patients,” Selkoe said.

Moreover, the scientists found that exposing the brain to new activities in particular provided greater protection against Alzheimer’s disease than did just aerobic exercise.

Clearly, quality homecare and caregiving is not enough for seniors who are aging in place. They must also have a nourishing environment with access to activities and stimulating conversation.

We knew we were doing important work before this study came out. Now, we are even more proud that this cutting edge research confirms our approach–providing an enriched environment, mental stimulation and new activities for Bay Area seniors in an effort to slow the onset of  dementia/Alzheimer’s and improve quality of life.

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