In spite of medical advances, as we get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain.
The brain controls who we are, how we think, feel and act. Research shows anyone can improve brain performance-- and it’s never too late to make changes to achieve brain health.
A recent AARP study, AARP Staying Sharp (http://www.aarp.org/StayingSharpStudy), found that an overwhelming number of Americans find maintaining brain health to be very important, however, very few know the best ways to do so.
“AARP Staying Sharp isn’t just about brain exercises, but about promoting healthier living as a holistic way to support brain health, by keeping physically fit, learning more by challenging your brain, managing your stress, eating right, and connecting with others,” said Lynn Mento, AARP senior vice president of Membership. Mento shared with me these additional findings from the study:
Boomer: What did the study find in connection with the holistic approach and what exactly does holistic mean?
Mento: The holistic approach to Staying Sharp is about addressing the issue of brain health as a whole and providing members with scientifically based information, tools and resources, and tangible steps to keep a healthy, active mind. Staying Sharp equips members for the best solutions with information and activities in five key areas that all support the brain including keeping fit, learning more, managing stress, eating right and being social.
The study found that a high percentage - 93% of the folks we surveyed - said brain health is important. But, we also found that few know there are five ways that people can really support their brain health. For example, only a mere 18% noted being social as a key factor while 42% said that they do not believe a heathy diet is a key factor to maintaining brain health, indicating a need to address the issue and raise awareness of the holistic approach.
Boomer: Do Baby Boomers need more education in the area of brain health?
Mento: Our research indicates they do. A recent study, conducted by AARP and W5 earlier this year of 1,200 adult Americans (including the 50-75 boomer demo), analyzed each specific element in the five key areas of brain health and found that there is opportunity for AARP to educate members on the benefits of taking a holistic approach to maintaining and even improving brain health.
Boomer: What are the top 5 ways to maintain brain health?
Mento: To engage a healthy and active mind, Staying Sharp focuses on five areas: Keeping Fit, where studies show that even small amounts of regular exercise like walking can positively impact brain health; Learning More, which inludes everything from learning a new language or skill to participating in online exercises designed to challenge and test the brain; Managing Stress, with several studies indicating sleep and stress management improve brain health; Eating Right, with scientific research that certain elements in food – from omega-3 fatty acids to vitamin E – can positively impact brain health; and Being Social, by connecting to other people to support a healthy brain.
Boomer: What products does AARP offer that aim to help 50+ boomers stay sharp?
Mento: The benefits of the membership offering helps 50+ boomers gain access to the framework and tools they need to thrive, and keep their brains in peak condition. . For new members it costs just $21 for a year, only $5 more than our regular membership. For our current members who want to upgrade, they can do so for as little as $9.
The Staying Sharp membership offers the same benefits of the traditional AARP membership, but you also get three new features to help you stay sharp:
- Staying Sharp Challenge from Brain HQ: Access to online brain training exercises selected for Staying Sharp members designed to improve cognitive ability, navigation skills, people skills, memory and more.
- Staying Sharp eNewsletter Subscription: Access to up-to-date research and insights around brain health.
- Video Insights Series: Short, web-based video series with science-based tips and suggestions on physical exercise, online and offline activities, food and approaches to support brain health in a holistic way.
And science has proven that there are many different ways to positively impact brain health, AARP is on the side of science, adjusting our offering based on the latest research, not on trends in the marketplace. We work with numerous brain health experts including Dr. Michael Merzenich and Dr. Paul Nussbaum and others to gather the best scientific research to bring our members the facts and best ways to maintain and improve brain health as part of Staying Sharp.
To become a new AARP Staying Sharp member, please go to aarp.org/NewStaySharp. For current members who want to upgrade, they should give AARP a call.
Boomer: Why is brain health important to AARP?
Mento: It is important to AARP because it is important to our members. Several studies and surveys of our members tell us that brain health is among their top concerns. One study a few years back found that some members were more concerned about brain health than the death of a spouse. And research also tells us that our future members care about it too. It’s not just the 50+ who believe brain health is important.