New research from the United States has illustrated the potential benefit of retirement communities helping older Australians to stay active and therefore stave off the impacts of dementia and other brain diseases.

The research by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) found that, when elderly people stay active, their brains have more of a class of proteins that enhances the connections between neurons to maintain healthy brain function.

The project tracked the late-life physical activity of elderly participants, who also agreed to donate their brains when they died. The research is the first to use human data to make this finding, with previous research based on mice.

The research found that elderly people who remained active had higher levels of proteins that facilitate the exchange of information between neurons. 

This result dovetailed with earlier research that people who had more of these proteins in their brains when they died were better able to maintain their cognition late in life.

Fortunately, retirement communities are increasingly home to modern and well-equipped fitness centres and services to help keep their residents healthy and active.

According to the 2020 Retirement Census, 45 per cent of Australian retirement villages now have a bowling green, 58 per cent have a pool, 46 per cent have a gym, and 53 per cent have a wellness centre. 

For instance, Anglicare’s newly-opened Minto Gardens project has plenty of outdoor activity spaces to exercise, including a seniors’ gym park, community garden and off-leash dog park, along with a series of winding pathways amongst shady and sheltered garden areas.

Uniting’s Park Meadows project in Western Sydney has a 183 square metre seniors’ gym which has been specifically designed for people over the age of 60. 

The gym is divided into two sections, with one section including smart technology exercise equipment which has been imported from Europe and the second section is an open area which can be used for classes and activities.

Research has found that retirement village residents live independently for five years longer than the national average. Commissioned by the Retirement Living Council and undertaken by public accountants Grant Thornton in 2014, the research found the average age of entry to aged care from a retirement village was 84, compared to the national average age of 79.

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