New Studies Link Exercise and Healthy Weight to Potential Dementia Prevention and Slowing Alzheimer’s Progression

Exercise helps to prevent Alzheimer's and dementia

A new paper published in The Lancet Neurology, led by the University of Melbourne and the University of Washington, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, reports that the number of people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias globally more than doubled between 1990 – 2016, from 20.2 million to 43.8 million. By, 2050 the researchers are projecting that more than 100 million could be living with dementia related diseases.

The 2016 study found dementia was more common at older ages, with the prevalence doubling every five years over age 50. It also found that 22.3 percent of healthy years lost to dementia in 2016 were due to four modifiable risk factors: being overweight, high blood sugar, consuming a lot of sugar sweetened beverages and smoking. There is a significant potential for prevention of dementia.

As reported in Neurology, (Dec. 19, 2018) an ENLIGHTEN trial revealed that regular exercise boosts executive function (impulse control, emotional control, flexible thinking, working memory, self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing, task initiation, and organization) and can potentially delay the onset of dementia in adults at risk for it.

Research from Queen’s University and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro recently published in Nature Medicine show that irisin, a hormone that is boosted by exercise, plays an important role in the brain and that Alzheimer patients carry less of the hormone. Boosting levels of irisin in the brain could slow the progression of the disease.

Dementia develops over at least 20 to 30 years before it is diagnosed – these findings allow us to act now to eliminate the risk factors and potentially ward it off, for ourselves and our loved ones.

Living Options for Those with Alzheimer’s or Other Dementia

There are Memory Care communities (standalone or within senior living/assisted living communities) with excellent programs to keep residents active, engaged, comfortable and safe. They are not inexpensive at $5,000 to $12,000 per month (depending on the community and state it’s located in). Some of these communities also offer short respite stays.

When staying at home or moving in with family, it is important to take away car keys and provide other methods of transportation for the person with dementia. It may be emotionally difficult, but it’s for safety and protection. Here in Arizona there are way too many ADOT “Silver Alerts” providing a license plate number and vehicle description with a plea to help find an elderly person with dementia that never returned home! Many times, it does not end well.

Hire caregivers with dementia training, available through home care agencies, to provide assistance and/or respite for family members. Have the home designed for dementia-support by a qualified dementia design professional. Dementia-supportive design will optimize independence and quality of life, preserve dignity, and reduce dementia-related fear for your loved one.  

Because dementia-supportive design is so highly-specialized, there are relatively few designers nationally that have the essential specialized training and experience. Of the ones that do, nearly all work exclusively on the commercial side designing for Memory Care/Senior Living Communities.

I am dementia-supportive design trained and experienced. And, because God gifted me with the ability to design for both residential and commercial (which is uncommon, for a variety of reasons), 55+ TLC Interior Design is pleased to offer dementia-supportive design and Aging in Place design services for residential private homes and design for commercial Memory Care and Senior Living Communities.

Source: Neurology and

Case Study: Bucket List Bathroom Transforms into Aging in Place Remodel Beauty

Twenty-five years after a homeowner and her late husband built their Fountain Hills, Arizona home, renovating the master bathroom had become a bucket list item for 89-year-old Melba. She wanted a beautiful, updated bathroom.


A contractor had been out to give her an estimate. He recommended the typical basic – granite countertops and new flooring. Melba then thought she should contact an interior designer and called me. That was a wise decision since contractors are trained to build, not design. Yet, homeowners often expect contractors to do the work of a designer – everything from space planning to selecting lighting, plumbing, materials and paint colors. Then they’re unhappy and wonder why things didn’t turn out as functional or aesthetically correct as they expected. The consequences can be worse and even life-threatening if Aging in Place design and construction is not done by specialized, qualified professionals.

Before making recommendations or starting conceptual design, I dove deep to learn Melba’s wishes for her bathroom, her specific needs, and how long she planned to live there. I also interjected the concept and importance of incorporating Aging in Place Design for anyone 55+. Being mentally sharp and physically active, she had not considered that safety and accessibility features should be central to the design. After I suggested it, it didn’t take long for Melba to recall how difficult it was for her husband to maneuver their bathroom while using a walker the last few years of his life. She agreed that it would be valuable to have an Aging in Place-ready bathroom, if I could also make it beautiful.

Design Matters So Much More for Adults 55+

Despite that Melba’s master bathroom was a decent-sized 185 square feet, it didn’t feel large. It felt tight when entering and in front of the double vanity. The water closet was small and confined and the walk-in closet was small. The shower’s excessive length was essentially wasted space. As built, the master bathroom was inaccessible by a wheelchair and nearly that with a walker.


Within the existing footprint of her home, without adding on, I designed a new floor plan that is more functional, eliminated the access and space constraints, and is ADA-code compliant (wheelchair accessible). The plan included moving the shower and water closet, as well as the wardrobe closet to give Melba the larger closet she desired.

Other key considerations for the design included safety (fall prevention and night toileting), ease of daily activities, ease of maintenance, an uplifting aesthetic, and Melba’s mild vision impairment. To address these, the design incorporates: spatial solutions; visual orientation; support solutions; senior-friendly lighting, flooring, colors and finishes; ADA-compliant products; and special detailing.


For example, I custom-designed a wheelchair-accessible vanity, linen closet and wardrobe closet, each with senior-friendly features for ease of use with daily activities. The shower is also designed for wheelchair-accessibility, safety and ease of use with features that support independent or assisted showering, should a caregiver or wheelchair be needed in the future. Additional sources of light needed were calculated and precisely located throughout the bathroom to help Melba with her vision.  

I meticulously weigh the impact and outcome of every decision in the planning, construction and design process. Because I understand how important it is.

Creating A Bright Future with Options

Melba is poised to live independently, better and longer following her wise decision to have her master bath professionally designed and remodeled for Aging in Place, beautifully. It will serve her well by significantly reducing the risk of harm or death in the most dangerous room of the house. It will make her daily activities easier, accommodate her needs as they change over time, and make in-home caregiving easier, if ever needed.

Melba now has options and better control as to where she will live in the future. If she needs to use a wheelchair, she has the option to continue living in her home. She also has the option to move to assisted living on her terms if, and when she chooses.

Most people either don’t have or don’t realize they could have had those options, until it’s too late. Once the option to live at home is no longer feasible, there is usually an urgent, abrupt move to assisted living or skilled nursing, which can wreak financial and/or emotional havoc on the homeowner and their family, when unplanned.

According to a 2017 Harvard Housing study, 99% of U.S. homes are not ready for aging in place. Contrary to popular belief, simply adding grab bars does not make a home aging in place-ready, as the study points out. It’s remodeling work that needs to be well-designed and executed by a degreed, professional Senior Living or Aging in Place Interior Designer or Architect and a Certified Aging in Place Contractor who is trained in precise building and installation of features and products for ADA-code compliance, before there’s an immediate need or crisis. Having no plan is planning to fail.

“As a physician, I’m probably more keyed into abruptness seeing episodes occur every day with patients and life can change in a moment,” says William J. Strohman, M.D. of Lifescape in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Hospital discharge planners frequently need to release patients to rehab, assisted living or skilled nursing because their home environment is not safe for them. Otherwise, home care service or a care manager must be hired to help prevent falls and accidents.

Return on Investment for Aging in Place Remodel

Because Melba’s Aging in Place bathroom design and remodel is aesthetically pleasing rather than sporting the typical ugly, institutional-look, it has increased the home’s market value. That will equate to more money to pay for assisted living if Melba decides to move, or more money for her estate if she lives out her life there. Not to mention increased marketability as there aren’t many single-level properties with beautiful Aging in Place-ready master bathrooms, during a period when more Boomers are aging, and the need is increasing.  

Melba now has a National Award-Winning Master Bathroom, from the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), that she loves and enjoys every day. It gives her peace of mind knowing that it is safer and is helping her to maintain her independence. She also appreciates that it has expanded her options for the future.

Melba’s adult children and their spouses also enjoy it when they’re in town visiting. Melba said, “Instead of using the guest bathroom, they wait and take turns using my master bathroom shower because it’s so pretty. Everyone loves it.”

Is your remodeling contractor really qualified to design for aging in place and senior living?

We all knew it was coming and you’ve seen the headlines. Boomers are getting older and life expectancies are growing longer. It comes as no surprise to anyone that we have an aging population challenge on our hands, which will continue to grow over the coming decades.

Whether planning your own retirement years, seeking the best possible living environment for your parents, or facing big decisions that impact the residents in a senior living community or care home you manage, I think it’s safe to say we all want to ensure seniors stay as safe, happy, healthy, and independent as possible in their later years.

However, I’ve noticed a disturbing problem that concerns me as someone who specializes in aging in place remodel design and senior living interior design. As economists, business analysts, and popular media outlets squawk about the coming “silver tsunami,” many companies are looking to cash in on what they see as a gold rush opportunity.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with paying attention to economic trends and serving the needs of a particular market segment. The more we can do to make the “second chapter in life” more secure and enjoyable for seniors, the better.

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Case Study: Honored to Design an Aging in Place Remodel to Bring Together Two Holocaust Survivors

As Holocaust survivors in their 90s and not able to get out much to visit one another, Dr. Barnes wanted to find a way to enable his mother Rose and aunt Mary to live together as he knew it would bring them companionship and great joy.

Rose was recently widowed and no longer happy at the Scottsdale senior living community where she’d lived for eight years. She wanted to move. Finding another nice senior living community wouldn’t be difficult, but Mary lived in her own Scottsdale home, loved it and did not want to leave. So, Dr. Barnes wondered whether Mary’s home could be re-designed and remodeled for aging-in-place to make the home safer and accommodate the ladies (Rose has mild dementia and Mary has Alzheimer’s) and a full-time caregiver.

“I searched for the best, most credentialed, specialized interior design professional to explore the feasibility of an aging in place remodel and chose Bonnie Lewis.” Continue reading