The Cognitive Benefits of a Routine for Aging Adults

It’s no secret that routines help people of all ages. However, the older we get, the more apparent these benefits become. Unpredictability can create stressful environments, which is why having regular routines is so important. It’s one of the many reasons why assisted living is suitable for so many aging adults. 

While aging can cause people to lose some of their independence, physical ability, and cognitive prowess — structure can help make life easier and more enjoyable. Some benefits include:

  • Reduced stress
  • Improved sleep schedule 
  • Improved eating habits
  • Boosted sense of security 

We’re going to go over some of the advantages routines and schedules can have, along with ways to implement them into your daily life or a loved one’s.  

What Does a Daily Routine Look Like for Aging Adults? 

A routine for aging adults is about creating a natural structure based on their individual needs, wants, and happiness. These routines involve regular activities, hygiene, nutrition, and much more. For aging adults, this is important for essential parts of the day like taking medicine, eating, and socializing with friends and family. 

Everyone has regular routines they take part in daily. Most of us wake up, brush our teeth, wash our face, eat breakfast, and perhaps shower each morning. For aging adults, this structure may include additional steps like taking medication or attending an exercise class.

These are just some examples of regular routines, and this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for any variation. A rigid schedule isn’t the goal. The primary objective is to eliminate unpredictable situations and reduce stress. 

Four Ways Regular Routines Benefit Aging Adults 

1. Reducing Stress & Anxiety 

For aging adults who transition to a community, there are a lot of unknowns involved. A new environment can be tricky, but routines can do wonders for eliminating these unknowns and stressors. They are essential for those dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s, offering additional support for cognitive and memory decline. These routines can help combat short-term memory loss and even build self-esteem through feelings of involvement and independence. 

Here are some tips for developing routines for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s:

  • Build routines around their individual needs 
  • Let them help if they want 
  • Include ordinary tasks 

However, it’s not just beneficial for loved ones with forms of dementia. If you notice that your aging loved one is falling behind on day-to-day routines such as hygiene, eating, or taking medications — it may be time to think about assisted living. These communities are a fantastic environment for creating an individualized structure based on each person, eliminating stressors and unpredictability. 

2. Better Sleep Schedule 

A good night’s sleep has countless benefits. On the other hand, poor sleep schedules and lack of sleep can significantly impact cognitive function. The Sleep Foundation states that the long-term effects of poor sleep can put people at a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Additionally, they state that the positive effects of getting the recommended amount of healthy sleep include helping the brain recuperate and some evidence of reducing the likelihood of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Luckily, a daily routine can also contribute to healthy sleep. According to this study, creating routines around basic daily tasks such as eating, bathing, and dressing can improve the quality of sleep. 

3. Healthier Eating Habits 

It should come as no surprise that eating healthy means living healthy. Studies show that dietary and single nutrient interventions positively impact cognition, memory performance, processing speed, and episodic memory. 

Diets are much easier to manage if they are routine, which is why so many communities for aging adults stick to meal plans and regular eating schedules. This ensures that individuals are receiving the right foods each and every day, improving overall cognition. 

4. Staying Socially Active 

Social communities offer so many advantages for aging adults, and weekly card games and clubs offer far more than just a good time. If we take a look at the research, we see that regular participation in social activities can provide aging adults with:

  • Lessening the chances of negative impacts on Activities in Daily Living (ADLs)
  • Improving depressive symptoms 
  • Lowering the risk of developing dementia 
  • Reducing cognitive decline 
  • Reducing the chances of a decline in motor function 

How to Help Your Aging Loved One With Routines 

If you want to help an aging loved one to create a more structured routine or daily schedule, it’s all about centering around them. It can be easy to create routines that benefit your daily life, but their routine should focus on them and their needs. 

Observe what they are already doing that can be implemented into their routine. Do they shower in the morning or at night? When are they supposed to take their medication? Do they like to exercise? Are they used to taking a nap during the day? All of these questions and more can help inform their day-to-day routine. 

If they want to be involved, make sure to include them. If you see some essential daily activities slipping through the cracks, add ordinary parts of the day to their routine. It’s not a matter of enforcing a schedule but rather encouraging active participation until it becomes habitual. 

The cognitive and overall benefits of organized routines can help both aging adults and their loved ones. If you have a loved one in independent or assisting living, there’s plenty you can do to support them. One of which is by having a scheduled phone call to check-in and add to their daily schedule!  

Having a scheduled routine is beneficial for everyone, but especially important for aging adults. Developing a consistent routine tailored to their lifestyle can improve their quality of life and create a lasting impact.