Brain Health Matters: Supporting Cognitive Fitness for Older Adults

By Krystal L. Culler

Retaining brain health and cognitive fitness as we age are two topics that recently have been gaining national and global attention from researchers, providers and healthcare professionals.

In 2014, the National Institute on Aging developed an educational toolkit offering evidence-based information and resources, “Brain Health As You Age—You Can Make a Difference!”

And in the fall of 2015, the Administration on Community Living launched its $4.1 million “Brain Health Awareness” campaign, which defines brain health as an individual’s ability to remember, learn, plan, problem-solve, concentrate and maintain a clear, active mind. Simply stated, brain health is about staying sharp and making the most of individuals’ brains as they age.

Recent brain health research has found that the way we live our lives is more important than genetics when it comes to mental wellness and brain health. The modern pillars of brain health focus on mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, social, nutritional and psychological lifestyle factors and determinants of health for all adults.

For the past two years, AARP has conducted nationwide studies examining these brain healthy lifestyle factors: attitudes and behaviors toward healthy living, attitudes and behaviors toward brain health, self-perceptions of brain health, primary resources used by consumers for brain health information, desirable brain health information, awareness of brain training and identification of brain health activities consumers engage in or are willing to try.

AARP’s 2014 study found that most adults think maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important, and respondents ranked brain health as the second most important lifestyle factor following heart health. Luckily, research has shown a strong connection between heart health and brain health. In AARP’s 2015 study, three-quarters of adults’ ages 40 and older reported concerns about their brain health declining in the future. This study also found that adults think it is important to maintain or improve their brain health.

But what is brain health? Although normative cognitive changes occur in the brain with aging, it is important for people to consider their brain health from a life-course perspective. Research offers suggestions for modifiable lifestyle factors or exercises that can help our brains stay sharp. Individuals have the ability to change their daily routines to help strengthen their minds and challenge their memories through a variety of tasks and intellectual pursuits.

Such lifestyle changes are important to support brain health, and it is never too late to begin a new brain healthy habit. However, reliable information and evidence-based programs or recommendations for brain health exercises are not streamlined for older adults, which has led to the formation of recent brain health initiatives at the global and national level.

The upcoming webinar, “Brain Health Matters: Supporting Cognitive Fitness for Older Adults” is based on an Aging in America 2016 Conference presentation, “Mind Your Brain: Creating a Community-Based Center for Brain Health,” which was featured in a previous AgeBlog post.

The webinar will provide an overview of the community-based Center 4 Brain Health, with its array of complimentary programs and services aligned with the goals of national and worldwide brain health initiatives. Current efforts focus on raising awareness about brain health and wellness, providing educational information and helping people translate current scientific research in order to enhance their daily lives and ultimately strengthen their brain health.

Participants in this webinar will be able to:

  • Recognize at least one current national- or global-level brain health and wellness initiative;
  • List at least two reasons that lifelong brain health matters for adults and older adults; and,
  • Restate at least two innovative ways to support brain health and wellness for adults and older adults.

The webinar is intended for all ASA members, including students with an interest in brain health, wellness, healthcare, education or community-based programs. It runs Thursday, May 5, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific time, 11:00 a.m. Mountain time, 12:00 p.m. Central time and 1:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Krystal L. Culler, M.A., is the inaugural Director of the Center 4 Brain Health at Menorah Park Center for Senior Living. It’s the first non-pharmacological, non-hospital based Brain Health Center in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. Connect with Culler on LinkedIn at, or at the Center 4 Brain Health.