Tips for maintaining good mental health and well-being during the lockdown
The Silver Santé Study is a 5-year EU-funded project investigating mental health and well-being in Europe’s ageing population. So our experts have come up with a few tips and links that may help older adults maintain good mental health and well-being during this challenging time.
While we all stay at home to protect ourselves and others, it’s more important than ever that we find ways to stay in regular contact with friends and family. Online platforms such as WhatsApp, Skype or Houseparty can be great for video calling but if that’s new to you, Age UK has produced this handy guide to help get you started: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/work-learning/technology-internet/video-calling/ . If you don’t have access to a computer, make sure you phone friends, family and neighbours regularly to chat and keep in touch.
Social contact is essential for maintaining good mental health, particularly if you live alone. But there are other things you can do to support good mental health. Take the time to get outside in the fresh air and enjoy your garden, if you have one, and make the most of the arrival of spring to tidy up and get planting. You can even start growing your own fruit and veg in the smallest of gardens. Meditation, yoga/stretching, or just sitting and listening to nature can also help you take time out for yourself. You could also take advantage of this time to learn a new foreign language with a free app like Duolingo ( https://www.duolingo.com/).
Even though outings are limited, it’s important to build some regular exercise into your new routine. Try doing exercises at home each day by following Joe Wicks’ free online workouts for seniors (https://youtu.be/A2wp8Ipxn9s) or if your mobility is limited, try this chair-based workout from Age UK https://youtu.be/4Qx2vPetMRQ .
It’s always beneficial to do the things you enjoy like reading a good book, playing a musical instrument, playing card games, board games, chess, or doing arts and crafts. You could also take the time to browse your photo albums or start making a new one with the stack of photos you never had time to organise. If you live alone, there are apps for scrabble, card games, crosswords, or Sudoku, to keep your brain active, to name but a few.
Below are some further links from the Silver Santé Study team with ideas to help you stay in good physical and mental health during this challenging time:
Free mindfulness audio resources from the Mindful website
Free online gardening advice from expert Christine Walkden on the Age UK website
Download the free MindMate app which offers free brain games and personalised daily workouts that help sharpen cognitive skills for seniors and baby boomers.
To sum up, try to keep yourself busy both mentally and physically in order to stay healthy and happy and remember that these restrictions won’t last forever, so keep smiling and stay positive!
New study identifies brain changes which explain why sleep apnea increases risk for developing Alzheimer’s
Researchers working on the EU-funded Silver Santé Study have identified brain changes which explain for the first time why sleep apnea increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The research, led by Dr Géraldine Rauchs, of Inserm, in Caen, France, was published in JAMA Neurology (https://bit.ly/33HxOIB )
Dr Rauchs and her team studied the effects of sleep apnea on 127 older adults who were taking part in the Age Well clinical trial of the Silver Santé Study. The volunteers, with a mean age of 69, completed neuropsychological assessments (tests to assess how the brain is working), polysomnography (to assess sleep quality and potential sleep disorders) tests and neuroimaging scans.
Those participants with sleep-disordered breathing (SDB or types of sleep apnea) showed greater amyloid burden (protein deposits in the brain), GM volume (number of brain cells) and metabolism (how these cells use glucose for their activity) in brain areas particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s – increasing their risk of developing the disease in coming years. No association was found with cognition, self-reported cognitive and sleep difficulties or excessive daytime sleepiness symptoms.
Dr Rauchs, the paper’s author, says: “The results are very significant as although there was increased evidence suggesting sleep-disordered breathing (SBD) increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the brain mechanisms underlying the link were unclear.
“This study shows for the first time that SBD, or sleep apnea, increases amyloid burden, GM volume and metabolism in brain areas particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease, increasing the risk of these individuals developing the disease in the future. This doesn’t mean, of course, that these participants will necessarily develop Alzheimer’s – just that their risk of developing the disease in future is increased.
“Fortunately, there are effective treatments available for SDB but the results of this study re-emphasize the importance of preserving good sleep quality throughout life in order to safeguard good mental health in later life.”
The results of the Silver Santé Study’s two clinical trials are due to be released later this year.
Project researchers to present results at prestigious Alzheimer’s conference
Senior researchers from the Silver Santé Study will be presenting the key findings of the project at the prestigious Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in July.
The teams will gather in Amsterdam from 26-30 July to present their analyses of the data collected from the project’s two major clinical trials – Age Well and SCD Well. Each year, the AAIC convenes the world’s leading basic science and clinical researchers, next-generation investigators, clinicians and the care research community to share research discoveries that’ll lead to methods of prevention and treatment and improvements in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Age Well is examining the impact of an 18-month intervention on healthy older adults aged 65+ in the Caen area of France and expert meditators. The volunteers were randomly assigned to one of three groups – meditation practice, foreign language learning, or a control group that had no intervention.
The SCD Well trial is assessing the impact of a short (8 week) course of either meditation or health education on patients from memory clinics in the UK, France, Spain and Germany.
Project Coordinator, Dr Gaël Chételat, who will be among those attending the conference, says: “As the world’s leading Alzheimer’s conference, the AAIC provides an invaluable opportunity for us to share our findings with the international scientific community.
“We look forward to doing so and to hearing from other scientists about their most recent findings in this important field of research.”
The AAIC conference takes place at the RAI Amsterdam, Europaplein 24, 1078 GZ Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.
Funds sought to add 21-month follow-up to Age Well trial
Silver Santé Study researchers are exploring funding opportunities to allow them to add a 21-month post intervention analysis to the Age Well clinical trial.
All 137 volunteers, bar two, have agreed to take part in additional follow-up tests at 21 months to further strengthen validation of the trial by studying whether the effects of mental training techniques persist over time.
After taking part in a series of baseline tests at the beginning of each wave, the volunteers were randomly assigned to one of three groups – an English language course, a meditation course, or a control group that had no intervention.
Blood tests, neuroimaging scans and questionnaires have been used by our expert researchers to assess the impact of the mental training techniques on the brain. The volunteers’ lifestyle habits – such as sleep, diet, physical exercise and emotions – have also been monitored.
The results of the Age-Well trial are expected to be released later this year.
And read ‘Points of View’ from our expert researchers.