The Dakim Brain Fitness program is available to Landis Homes residents through Life Enrichment staff. Apps and computer programs that tease and train the brain are all the rage. Experts also recommend other, far less high-tech ways to boost brain power, including diet, exercise, sleep and even the occasional massage.
“HOW TO BOOST YOUR BRAIN POWER AS YOU AGE”
Article first printed in LNP on June 3, 2013
By MARY BETH SCHWEIGERT
Lancaster Newspapers Staff Writer
A standing date with a computer helps Angela Stinebaugh stay sharp. Stinebaugh, a 94-year-old resident of Woodcrest Villa, Lancaster, logs on to Dakim’s BrainFitness software for a half-hour three times a week.
The program aims to boost seniors’ memory, focus and concentration with puzzles and games from a variety of areas, including geography, art, history, literature and math.
After two years of using BrainFitness, Stinebaugh has noticed improvement in her sequential memory and ability to recall details. “It’s not just entertainment with games,” she says. “It’s thought-provoking.”
Apps and computer programs that tease and train the brain are all the rage. Experts also recommend other, far less high-tech ways to boost brain power, including diet, exercise, sleep and even the occasional massage.
Plain old pencil-and-paper puzzles engage the brain of fellow Woodcrest Villa resident Barbara Brown, 90. “I always have a puzzle with me, and in fact, I’m doing one right now,” she says. “I couldn’t live without them.” Brown, a long-time puzzle-solver, prefers Sudoku, scrambles, acrostics and other word games. She used to work the New York Times’ Sunday crossword but quit once she stopped paying attention to pop culture. “The puzzles keep my mind active, she says. “They keep me asking questions.”
Sarah Keene, education and outreach coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Pennsylvania Chapter, says research shows that strong social connections also are important for cognition. “Strong family ties obviously are important, but so is being involved in a church group, book club … or knitting group,” Keene says. “As long as it’s with people that you enjoy and look forward to seeing.”
Dr. J. Kenneth Brubaker, chief medical director for the Pennsylvania Office of Long Term Living, says regular exercise doesn’t just build muscles. It also boosts brain power. Brubaker, who also practices with Geriatric Specialists at Lancaster General Health, says recent studies show that exercise benefits the brain no matter what age people begin. It might even help reverse mild dementia.
“Walking is very common among older adults, (as well as) gardening, swimming and hiking,” he says. Weight-bearing exercise is especially important for older women, he says, since it helps fight osteoporosis. Seniors can easily incorporate physical activity into their daily routines, Brubaker says. “Walk several blocks or more to mail a letter,” he suggests. “Take steps instead of elevators when possible. We should get rid of our remote controls for our garage doors and TVs.”
What else can you do?
•Read a book or newspaper. Listen to music, especially classical, which has been shown to activate the left side of the brain.
•Practice good sleep hygiene. Go to bed around the same time every night, and try to sleep for at least seven hours.
•Eat a diet that is at least 50 percent plant-based. Oily fish, eggs, olive oil, flaxseed, fresh salads, strawberries, blueberries, Greek yogurt, nuts and beans are especially good for the brain.
•Take a new course, learn a new language or how to play a new musical instrument. New thought patterns are critical for brain health.
•Treat yourself to a massage at least once a month. It gets the tension “kinks” out and promotes emotional health.