Mental Health and Aging Brains - Use It or Lose It!



Keep mentally fit. Just as we exercise our bodies to keep them in working order, so must we exercise our brains to stay mentally agile and adept.  It’s the use-it-or-lose-it theory. By engaging in mentally stimulating activities, we can maintain our brain functions as we age. We can continue to grow new connections among the billions of brain cells we possess by learning new things. This activity may help to ward off dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. So, work out your brain daily. Stimulate new areas of your brain and grow more connections among brain cells by intellectually challenging yourself. Solve a puzzle, learn a new musical instrument, read a challenging book, play a board or card game, attend a lecture or play, or write a short story.

Stay socially connected. The support we receive from our friends, family, and colleagues helps maintain our mental health. Studies have shown that those who are engaged with family and community groups take longer to show the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease than those who are socially isolated. So stay or become connected. Join a book club or a volunteer group and interact with the world around you. For those in the Lexington area, Participation Station is a peer operated center where recovery oriented classes and support groups are offered for people in recovery from behavioral health (mental health and substance abuse disorders).  Call 859-309-2856 or for a schedule of classes (tracks) and support groups.  NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Lexington offers Family to Family a FREE 11 week education/support program taught by trained NAMI members with lived experience of having a family member with a biological brain disorder. Call 859-272-7891 to register or for more information.  NAMI Lexington Multicultural Outreach offers Better Choices, Better Health--Chronic Disease Self Management Program as a partnership with the Bluegrass Area Agency on Aging. Call 859-309-2856 or .

Look on the bright side. A positive outlook and emotions contribute to a healthy mind and body. Focus on the good in the world and the activities and people that make you happy.

Stay connected spiritually. If nurturing your spiritual side has had meaning for you, keep up that aspect of your life. Those with a strong faith often find support and comfort from their beliefs and their community. So whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs, stay connected. This connection can help prevent and relieve depression and may guard against dementia. NAMI Lexington Multicultural Outreach offers Sharing Hope.  Call 859-309-2856 or


Local Resources

National Alliance on Mental Illness:

NAMI Lexington—local affiliate  

498 Georgetown Street, Suite 201, Lexington, KY  40508

Phone: (859) 272-7891

Crisis Line: (800) 928-8000

Warm Line: (877) 840-5167

Suicide Life Line: (800) 273-TALK (8255)

Participation Station: (859) 309-2856

Geriatric Mental Health Foundation

The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation was established by the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry to raise awareness of psychiatric and mental health problems and issues affecting older adults, eliminate the stigma of mental illness and treatment, promote healthy aging strategies, and increase access to quality mental health care for older adults.

The Foundation’s vision for America’s aging population includes:

  • Increased public awareness of the importance of mental health in the aging population;

  • Removal of stigmas for those seeking mental health services;

  • Increased access to quality mental health care for older adults; and

  • Promotion of healthy aging strategies for all older adults, family caregivers, and others devoted to the overall health of our communities.

To achieve this vision, the Foundation’s mission is to raise awareness of psychiatric and mental health problems and issues affecting older adults. The Foundation focuses on public education targeted to the health care consumer and family caregiver about mental health promotion, and illness prevention and treatment. The Foundation develops programs to enhance communication and foster broad collaboration between the aging and mental health research community, mental health care providers, and the general public.

Older Adults & Mental Health Brochure Series

This publication is part of a series of brochures published by the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation to provide information about the mental health of the elderly. Other GMHF brochures include:

  • A Guide to Mental Wellness in Older Age: Recognizing and Overcoming Depression (A Depression Recovery Toolkit)

  • Depression in Late Life: Not a Natural Part of Aging

  • Depression in Late Life (in Spanish)—Depresión Tardía: No Es Una Parte Natural Del Envejecimiento

  • Coping with Depression and the Holidays

  • Alzheimer’s Disease: Understanding the Most Common Dementing Disorder

  • Alzheimer’s Disease (in Spanish)—Enfermedad de Alzheimer: Entendiendo Acerca de la Demencia Más Común

  • Caring for the Alzheimer’s Disease Patient: How You Can Provide the Best Care and Maintain Your Own Well-Being

  • Substance Misuse and Abuse Among Older Adults

To view brochures online, visit Order from the website or call 301-654-7850.

Find a Geriatric Psychiatrist

A geriatric psychiatrist is a medical doctor with special training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses that may occur in older adults. These include, but are not limited to, dementia, depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse/misuse, and late-life schizophrenia.

The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation can provide the names of geriatric psychiatrists. Visit or call 301-654-7850.

General Resources

Geriatric Mental Health Foundation:

7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 1050, Bethesda, MD 20814

Phone: (301) 654-7850

American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry:

7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 1050, Bethesda, MD 20814

Phone: (301) 654-7850

Alzheimer’s Association:

225 N. Michigan Avenue, Floor 17, Chicago, IL 60601-7633

Phone: (800) 272-3900 and (312) 335-8700

Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center:

PO Box 8250, Silver Spring, MD 20907-8250

Phone: (800) 438-4380

American Psychiatric Association:

1000 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1825, Arlington, VA 22209-3901

Phone: (703) 907-7300

Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance:

730 N. Franklin Street, Suite 501, Chicago, IL 60610-7224

Phone: (800) 826-3632 and (312) 642-0049

Families for Depression Awareness:

300 Fifth Avenue, Waltham, MA 02451

Phone: (781) 890-0220

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Healthy Aging:

National Institute on Aging (NIA):

Building 31, Room 5C27, 31 Center Drive, MSC 2292, Bethesda, MD 20892

Phone: (301) 496-1752

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

Public Information and Communications Branch, 6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663, Bethesda, MD 20892-9663

Phone: (301) 443-4513 and (866) 615-6464

National Mental Health Association:

2001 N. Beauregard Street, 12th Floor, Alexandria, VA 22311

Phone: (703) 684-7722


Real Men. Real Depression.:

National Institute of Mental Health, Public Information and Communications Branch, 6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663, Bethesda, MD 20892-9663

Phone: (301) 443-4513 and (866) 615-6464

The information presented here is for general information only. It is NOT a substitute for the knowledge, skill, and judgment of qualified health care professionals. If you have any mental health or medical questions or concerns, please consult a physician, psychiatrist, geriatric psychiatrist, or other health care professional.


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