Aging

Dr. Julie Rickard thought her visit to Wisconsin over the Christmas holiday would bring a break from her day job working in suicide prevention in Wenatchee, Wash.

The visit didn't go as planned. After a tense fight broke out between her mother and another family member, everyone dispersed. Rickard readied herself for the trip back to the Pacific Northwest.

At the airport, she received a call from her mother, Sheri Adler. This was not out of the ordinary — Adler, like many adoring mothers, always calls her daughter after parting ways.

It's an unfortunate fact of life — as we age, we tend to become more forgetful.

Aging brains struggle especially with working memory. Called the workbench of the mind, working memory allows us to store useful bits of information for a few seconds and use that information across different brain areas to help solve problems, plan or make decisions.

Researchers are trying to understand why this ability fades as we age and whether we can slow, or reverse, that decline.

In the U.S., older people with dementia are usually told they have Alzheimer's disease.

But a range of other brain diseases can also impair thinking and memory and judgment, according to scientists attending a summit on dementias held Thursday and Friday at the National Institutes of Health.

These include strokes, a form of Parkinson's disease and a disease that damages brain areas that regulate emotion and behavior.

Walking your dog can be a great way to build a little exercise into your life at any age. But take care, too: The number of Americans over age 65 who have had fractures associated with walking a dog on a leash has more than doubled since 2004, according to a study published this month.

Primary care doctors are really good at checking seniors' cholesterol levels and blood pressure but often fail to use tests that could detect dementia.

Fewer than half of primary care doctors surveyed say they routinely test patients 65 and older for problems with memory and thinking, according to a report released Tuesday by the Alzheimer's Association.

Stacy Nick / KUNC

Colorado State University’s Moving Through Parkinson’s class isn’t like other movement therapy classes. Yes, they use many of the same exercises to increase balance and range of motion. And yes, they use music to help participants keep the beat to those exercises.

But unlike most programs, the class’s soundtrack isn’t playing on a laptop or a stereo. It’s coming from a group of music therapy students playing instruments in a corner of the room.

This movement therapy class comes with a live band.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Eighty-four-year-old Joyce Reiche has a two-bedroom home close to downtown Eagle, Colorado, on the Western Slope. Like many, she's trying to plan for the next phase of life.

"The things I used to like to do I can't do any more, like hike, cross-country ski, go up to the mountains, and do things like that," Reiche said. "I mainly stay home, but I'm content at home."

Colorado's population is not only growing, it's also getting older. Many of the state's counties are poised to see huge increases in the number of people over the age of 65 in the next 25 years.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

The Front Range's booming economy is good news for many. Yet fast growth has caused a housing crunch from Denver to Fort Collins.

Rising rents and home prices are squeezing a vulnerable population: seniors. Groups that work to help lower-income older adults say they are having a harder time placing seniors in subsidized housing and also starting to see more of this population lacking a place to call home.

Cara Pallone / KOTO

Colorado is, overall, one of the healthiest states in the country – but things are starting to change as the population grows and ages. One of the unintended side effects is a widening disparity between the healthiest and least healthy counties.

New data indicates disparities across geographic regions; with people living in the mountain communities generally ranking as the healthiest in Colorado. In part due to the things that attract people to the state to begin with.

"The amount of sunshine, the world class skiing, hiking, fly fishing, the ability to go right outside your backyard and experience nature," said Democratic Summit County commissioner Dan Gibbs.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

About 15 years ago, Lori Ramos Lemasters got a phone call in the middle of the night. Her mother, who lived in California, had suffered a stroke.

At the time, her mother was her dad's primary caregiver - he had medical problems. So Lemasters made a choice. She left her job as a mortgage banker in Littleton and moved to California. She thought it would be a quick trip. 

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