Aging gracefully often means staying as young-looking as possible. Annual doctor visits check the blood, heart, reflexes and medications. Yet, attention is rarely given to our brains unless we experience memory problems. It should go without saying that aging gracefully does not include developing dementia.
Statistics show there is good reason to focus on brain health. The World Health Organization estimates the number of people living with dementia worldwide to be 47 million and projects that number to almost triple by 2050. By age 65, Americans have a 12 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a specific type of dementia, and by age 85, that number increases to almost 50 percent.
The good news is that dementia is not a natural part of aging—it often has specific causes that can be addressed, treated and reversed, sometimes completely. The brain, like all organs, can be monitored and checked over the course of our lives. A variety of diagnostics, from eye exams to inflammation markers in the blood, can be used to identify an underlying issue years before signs of memory loss become apparent.
More than 450 people will gather at the Valley Forge Casino Resort, in King of Prussia, for the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter Annual Dementia Conference, entitled Empowering Caregivers & Communities, on April 24. Attendees will hear from several dementia care experts, including keynote speaker, author/educator/gerontologist, Tam Cummings, Ph.D.
“Family and professional caregivers will learn innovative tips and tools from specialized workshop presentations and each other,” says Kristina Prendergast, the chapter’s manager of conference and program outreach. The Delaware Valley Chapter offers a free, 24/7 helpline, support groups, consumer education and other caregiver and early-stage programs and services.
Natasha Goldstein-Levitas is a Philadelphia-based dance/movement therapist with over 16 years of experience working with older adults across various cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. She facilitates groups at several area senior centers, residential case- and outpatient-based programs that are specifically tailored to the needs of high-functioning seniors, as well as those suffering from degenerative conditions such as dementia. Goldstein-Levitas has presented at conferences hosted by the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and her research article, “Dance/Movement Therapy and Sensory Stimulation: A Holistic Approach to Dementia Care”, was recently published in the American Journal of Dance Therapy.