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Staying Sharp 

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Researchers disagree on the best ways to keep
our brains in top shape as we age.

While brain challenges have been popular for years, the latest studies are leaning toward picking up a yoga class rather than a pencil.

Brain fitness is all the rage these days, but the experts don’t agree on the best way to keep your noggin hoppin’. Sudoku? Crossword puzzles? Knitting? There are many types of brain fitness methods and activities – all with the goal of helping you think more clearly and build your memory skills. Can these activities help delay dementia and disease? Some research says yes, but opinions differ on the BEST methods. Most agree, though, that you need to “use it or lose it” (your brain, that is). Professionals recommend that we engage in at least five minutes of brain exercise each day.

This Research is “Nunsense”

The whole conversation about staying mentally fit took hold when David Snowdon’s research linked lifestyle behaviors with cognition. Snowdon’s study involved examining daily activities of 678 American Roman Catholic nuns, and whether they developed Alzheimer’s disease. Snowdon discovered that the nuns who regularly performed complex tasks like crossword puzzles were much less likely to show signs of cognitive decline compared to those whose brains were less active.

Subsequent research has explored this concept further. Results of a new study by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society were impressive. This study followed 3,000 older adults over a 10-year period. The positive effects of one 12-hour training program lasted 10 years after completing the program. Participants in these games also sustained better reasoning and processing speed.

But not all studies agree. In fact, many have shown that older people benefit from cognitive training programs for only a brief period as they practice and get better at that particular game or activity, and that the learning process does not translate into broader benefits. In other words, the benefits aren’t long-lasting and don’t help with everyday life.

However, the latest research is beginning to provide substantial evidence that increased physical exercise goes a long way with keeping the mind in good shape. In fact, walking regularly produces a significant increase in brain mass in older people.

The good news is, you don’t have to choose. Most of us have time for stimulating cognitive skill-building activities and physical activity, which can be found in Spectrum communities which are designed with both in mind.

For more ideas on keeping the mind and body active, go to www.icaa.cc/activeagingweek

Pump Up Your Brain with Physical Activity

Spectrum communities are adding new initiatives to help our residents stay physically active which, as research shows, helps keep the brain and the body in top shape.

The wellness center in each of our Spectrum communities will soon be adding TechnoGym hydraulic machines. With these machines, communities will have SpectraCircuit Fitness programs. These programs are designed to target specific areas of wellness, endurance, strength and balance. The equipment can be modified for different abilities and preferences.

Spectrum introduces Silver Sneakers, the nation’s leading fully-funded Medicare program offered to keep older adults active. The FLEX program is for individuals who typically don’t visit a gym or need more variety in their workouts. The program offers classes and activities such as Zumba, tai chi, yoga and walking. The classes are taught by certified instructors and enable us to offer a larger selection of fitness classes to our residents as well as invite members from the outside community.

Marvelous Missouri Minds

Crestview Senior Living in Crestwood, Missouri, has introduced a series of brain challenges to keep its residents sharp.

”We offer a wide variety of material to our residents to keep the program interesting and fresh,” says Director of Fun Tracy Hickman.

The group at Crestview participates in trivia, “Jeopardy” questions, spelling bees, word definitions, “Name That Tune,” reminiscing, and also questions that require the players to work toward the answer.

Hickman is aware that, when doing these activities, sometimes people don’t like to be singled out. “So we put our Marvelous Minds (MM) residents in small groups to encourage teamwork. That way, everyone gets a chance to contribute.” Sometimes the group participates in group Sudoku, pattern-recognition, Cranium Crunches, etc. in the community’s bistro area.

“A good way to keep MM in front of the residents who might not participate is to make placemats with trivia and place them under the glass tops in the dining room,” Hickman says. “It makes for lively conversation and social interaction.”