Active socialising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help senior citizens retain cognition, say experts. For, elders who lead a passive, minimum activity lifestyle are at a higher risk for dementia and related problems.

A health camp organised by the All India Federation of Pensioners' Associations in the city recently threw up several predictable results. Participants, who came from across the country, were encouraged to undergo the tests for cognitive ability and physical health. The senior citizens were also introduced to preventive vaccines for ailments such as influenza.

Geriatrician V.S. Natarajan said of the 102 persons who participated in the dementia camp, eight were found to be in the very early stages of the disease. “We advised them to consult a psychiatrist or neurologist in their locality. Those with early cognitive impairment, mild to moderate, can lead a near normal life with treatment,” he said.

The participants were also told about pneumococcal and influenza vaccines. It is believed that after the age of 65, one shot of Pneumococcal vaccine could provide life-long immunity for asthma, bronchitis and other immuno-compromised diseases. Influenza vaccine is prescribed to prevent viral fever during winters, Dr. Natarajan added. Though most of them underwent the tests, the participants were not enthusiastic about taking the vaccines, he said. Psychotherapist Ravi Samuel, who participated in the dementia camp, said active social life and good food habits play an important part in preventing depression among the elders.

Citing his study with old age homes residents and with those living in the community, he said those living in the homes were in better physical health as they received food at regular intervals and benefitted from the regular visits by doctors to the homes.

“Elders in the community could neglect periodic visits to doctors because of financial problems. But people in old age homes have difficulty in cognitive ability as they lead a passive life,” he added. “People in old age homes have loss of cognitive ability.

The different functions of the brain such as ability to remember, calculate, recall and think abstractly are all affected.”

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