Cognitive Health

Happy older couple hugging

The brain controls many aspects of thinking — from remembering, planning and organizing, to making decisions, and more. With age, these cognitive abilities affect your ability to do everyday tasks and live independently. The biggest benefit of maintaining cognitive health with age is that your mind stays clear, allowing you to continue living independently and doing the activities you enjoy most.

While successful aging is defined as normal brain aging without changes in memory or thinking skills that affect activities of daily living, some changes in thinking are common with age. For example, you may:

  • Be slower to find words and recall names;
  • Have more problems with multitasking; or
  • Experience mild decreases in the ability to pay attention.

Positive Aging Outcomes

Aging may also bring positive cognitive changes.

For example, many studies have shown that older adults have more extensive vocabularies and greater knowledge of the depth and meaning of words than younger adults. Older adults may also have learned from a lifetime of accumulated knowledge and experiences. Whether and how older adults apply this accumulated knowledge, and how the brain changes as a result, is an area of active exploration by researchers.

Despite the changes in cognition that may come with age, older adults can still do many of the things they have enjoyed their whole lives. Research shows that older adults can still:

  • Learn new skills;
  • Form new memories; and
  • Improve vocabulary and language skills.

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Cognitive Aging Explained

The way your brain changes with age is part of a natural process that starts at birth and continues throughout the lifespan. While you can't prevent your brain from aging, there are steps you can take to optimize your brain and cognitive health.
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Maintaining Cognitive Health

What you can do

Research shows that adopting simple lifestyle behaviors to optimize your overall health and well-being can also help maintain cognitive health as you age. There are many things you can do to maintain your cognitive health and help you function better as you age.

See Tips to Maintain Brain Health