Health and Wellness Archives | Wesley Woods at New Albany

Game On: Can Brain Games Improve Your Memory?

There are a number of so-called “brain game” products on the market these days. These typically are computer or smartphone/tablet-based games that claim they can help improve seniors’ cognitive function and memory. But do they really work? Could playing video games be the secret to decreasing the prevalence of neuro-degenerative conditions like dementia? And what about things like crossword puzzles and sudoku—can they help seniors stay mentally sharp?

Aging and brain function

It is a normal part of the aging process to experience some decline in the number of neural synapses within the brain, which are imperative to memory and cognitive function. There are also conditions like dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) or Parkinson’s disease that cause more severe and debilitating cognitive decline among older people.

Some of the causes behind cognitive decline may be preventable by making lifestyle changes like managing weight, staying physically active, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and managing stress. Keeping the mind active—pursuing continuing education opportunities, or learning a new skill, a new language, or how to play an instrument—may even aid with the formation of new neural networks in seniors’ brains.

Inconclusive studies

You’ve heard the saying “use it, or lose it”; this axiom may be applicable to the brain.

The 1995 MacArthur Study, one of largest longitudinal studies of the aging process, found that among the octogenarians in their study sample, those who were more physically and mentally active—frequently doing activities like crossword puzzles, reading, and playing bridge—also had the highest cognitive abilities. However, a study conducted by neuroscientists at University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University found no significant difference between the memory function of seniors who played “brain games” and the control group that didn’t play the games.

Still another recent study found that it’s not enough just to use your brain; you have to challenge it by learning something unfamiliar.

University of Texas at Dallas researchers randomly assigned 221 adults, ages 60 to 90, to participate in a particular type of activity for 15 hours a week for a three-month period. Some were assigned to learn a new skill — digital photography, quilting, or both. Others were told to engage in more commonplace activities at home, like listening to classical music and doing crossword puzzles. And some seniors were assigned to a group that focused on social interactions, field trips, and entertainment.

At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that the seniors who were in the group that learned new skills showed quantifiable improvements in memory, as compared to those who engaged in the non-demanding mental activities at home or the purely social group.

So, while the research is thus far inconclusive on this topic, it appears that the most beneficial mental stimulation may involve learning new information or skills, rather than just recalling what we already know.

And this stands to reason. Think of the brain as being like a computer. Learning something new—like a new language or skill—stimulates the brain and helps form new neural pathways. It’s sort of like adding new software or a new hard drive to a computer, increasing its functional and memory capacity. By comparison, activities like trivia or crossword puzzles simply require you call upon data that already exists in the computer that is your brain.

Gaming for the senior set

Video and computer games are getting increasingly popular among seniors. Entertainment Software Association research from 2018 found that a quarter of people over the age of 50 play video games on a regular basis—a number that is trending upward.

If you’re a senior who is interested in diving into the gaming world with the goal of improving your brain health, again, games that teach new information—versus recalling data you already know—are believed to be best. However, there are also many fun games that get your body moving, offering the added benefit of improving your physical fitness, balance, and cardiovascular health (which is also good for your brain!).

Computer games and apps for smartphones/tablets

There are more and more computer-based games, as well as apps that can be downloaded to a smartphone or tablet (such as an iPad), that have educational value, which may be beneficial for seniors’ brains.

For example, programs like Rosetta Stone, and games such as Lingo Arcade, Influent, and MindSnacks can help you learn a new language, and Rocksmith can teach you how to play the guitar. If you’re interested in learning how to do computer programming, CodeMonkey will educate you on the basics of coding languages like HTML5 and JavaScript.

History buffs may enjoy games like Crusader King or Civilization VI, which combine strategic thinking with history lessons. There are even flight simulator games that can teach you how to fly an airplane!

Gaming consoles

There are numerous options when it comes to gaming consoles, from Xbox to PlayStation to Nintendo. Many of the games for these systems provide purely entertainment value, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But there are also several games that are effective at getting your body moving while you have fun. As an added benefit, these gaming systems are enjoyable for people of all ages and can be a great activity for grandparents to share with their grandchildren.

You may have heard of a Wii (pronounced like “we”). It is an interactive gaming console sold by Nintendo, and it’s become all the rage in many senior living communities. The Wii Fit system bundle comes with a balance board “peripheral” (add-on equipment) that is used in many Wii games to track your movements, allowing the game to make more personalized recommendations.

Wii Fit can be used for activities like yoga, balance games, and aerobic and strength training exercises. The Wii Sports Resort game offers numerous virtual activities that can get seniors moving like golf, tennis, and bowling.

Virtual reality

The lines are increasingly getting blurred between gaming and virtual reality (VR). VR is where a user dons headphones and a special mask that displays various simulations of three-dimensional images that can be interacted with by the user in a seemingly real way.

Such VR technology is another high-tech tool that is being used in several new applications for seniors. There are VR uses for memory care patients, with programs designed to stimulate the brain, spur memories, or encourage anxiety reduction. There are also physical therapy and pain management applications for VR.

The future of gaming in senior living communities

It is likely that gaming will play a bigger role in the future of the CCRC industry. It’s even possible to imagine a time when CCRCs and other senior living communities might create on-site gaming centers where residents can enjoy some friendly competition with each other. Whether it’s innovative uses for Wii Fit exercise groups or a fierce Crusader King virtual battle, residents can benefit from the physical activity and/or mental stimulation offered by these games in a fun and social atmosphere (interpersonal interactions which offer their own health benefits for the seniors).

But the bottom line is that, based on current research, the types of games that are believed to be most beneficial for seniors’ cognitive health are those that involve educational elements. So instead of a word puzzle, sudoku, or fantasy-adventure game, chose one that will help you learn Italian, take up the virtual guitar, or try your hand at computer programming.

And also don’t underestimate the “old-fashioned” way of learning: from a book or in a classroom-type setting. Most CCRCs provide residents with opportunities for this type of continuing education on an array of topics. Some even have lifelong learning partnerships with nearby universities, allowing residents to audit college courses. It might not be as snazzy as the latest computer or video game, but this type of learning still offers seniors potential benefits to their brains.

 

 

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How to Cope with Stress, When Times are Stressful

At a time like this, it is normal for stress levels to be heightened and for you to feel “off” more often than you feel “normal.” Your feelings are completely validated and while they are okay to have, for most of us, it doesn’t feel very good.

The Ohio Department of Health has put forth some valuable information and resources for identifying your stress, managing it, and for helping manage the stress of a loved one you’re caring for.

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
  • Anger or short temper.

Things you can do to support yourself

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

If you are taking care of an older adult:

  • Make sure your loved one’s nutrition intake is monitored.
  • Provide consistent predictable patterns and schedules.
  • Stay engaged with communication.
  • Personal care is important (clean clothes, bathing).
  • Attempt to lower emotions to reduce stress.
  • Understand that this change impacts a wide range of human experience that includes physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being.

 Resources for additional assistance:

  • Throughout Ohio, you can text the keyword “4hope” to 741 741 to be connected to a trained Crisis Counselor. Data usage while texting Crisis Text Line is free, and the number will not appear on a phone bill with the mobile service carrier. People of all ages can use Crisis Text Line.
  • The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director, Lori Criss, offers information on how to manage Coronavirus related stress. Click the link below to watch.
  • For those of you interested in meditation, the below link offers some of the most recommended guided meditations.
  • The Disaster Distress Helpline is available 24 hours a way, 7 days a week, year-round.
    • Call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs”to 66746, Spanish-speakers, text “Hablanos” to 66746.

By identifying your own stress and the stress of those you care for, you can work towards managing it and living a happier and healthier life, especially now, when it is needed the most.


What is Social Distancing? And Why is it so Important Right Now?

With the recent events that have transpired over the past few weeks, there are many new terms that we as a society are learning and adapting to. Besides the big ones – COVID-19 and Novel Coronavirus, there are plenty of others. One of major importance that has received a lot of attention, however, is the term social distancing.

For a lot of us, this might be the first time we’ve heard this term and as a result, we may need a little further explanation. So, what is social distancing? And why is it so important right now?

Social distancing is a way for public health officials to try and limit the spread of infection by restricting interaction between people and meetings with large groups. The objective of social distancing is to reduce the probability of contact between people carrying an infection and people who are not infected to again, mitigate the spread of that infection. The more people that actively practice social distancing, the slower an infection will most likely spread.

Under the circumstances our world is facing, social distancing is among one of the most critical measures we can be taking. Right now, health officials are focused on “flattening the curve” through social distancing, which means that they are trying to slow the rate of new cases of Coronavirus so as to not overwhelm the health care professionals and resources that we have available.

Practice social distancing by limiting your interaction with others. If you do need to be around others, it is advised to avoid group settings of 10 or more people and to keep a distance of at least six feet between yourself and another individual. If your circumstances allow you to stay at home, that is encouraged as much as possible.

By taking social distancing seriously, we can help our health care industry, our fellow citizens, and our world through this uncertain and difficult time.


National Nutrition Month – Meet Executive Director of Dining Services, Lisa Wolfe, RD, LD

March is National Nutrition Month and at The Wesley Communities, we are fortunate to have our Executive Director of Dining Services, Lisa Wolfe, RD, LD. As an Ohio State University graduate, Lisa studied Medical Dietetics and soon after, became a Registered Dietitian. Lisa first started with our communities in 2005, as a Clinical Dietitian focusing on clinical nutrition and monitoring resident care. From that position, Lisa’s career progressed to Assistant Director of Dining Services positions throughout our communities, which gave her valuable experience in not only nutrition but also in improving our dining services to meet the needs of our residents.

Now, Lisa is the Executive Director of Dining Services and oversees all nutritional care and dining services operations for all three of The Wesley Communities’ campuses. To celebrate National Nutrition Month, Lisa said that our communities will be focused on promoting the benefits of seafood and a Mediterranean diet. “As a department, we incorporate as many events as we can that are centered around food, health, and nutrition. We like to create environments that are inviting opportunities for residents and guests to socialize while enjoying good food that’s good for you,” said Lisa.

At our communities, you will also find a variety of meals, and Lisa tries to incorporate local items as often as possible. A lot of The Wesley Communities’ vendors work with local partners which luckily allows us to purchase local produce regularly.

Lisa also explained that for each of the care areas, it’s important that our residents have alternatives available to them outside of what may be featured on the daily menu. She said, “While dining services tries to promote similar menus across our campuses, they can be, and often are tailored specifically to the needs and desires of our residents. Many times, our on-staff dieticians and chefs meet on a regular basis to better understand how our residents’ diets may have changed and find ways to ensure we are meeting these changes through the menu options.” Lisa does a fantastic job of focusing her efforts on the unique diet needs of our residents – making sure that they always have healthy and delicious meals that promote their wellness.

“Overall, the most important thing for me and what has kept me here long-term is being able to build relationships with residents and staff. In my day-to-day role, I focus a lot on food, but it is also about connecting with each other – food brings everyone together.”


New Year, New You – 2020 Resolutions for Seniors

The New Year has officially kicked off and for many, this is a time to set new goals and to plan for the year ahead. Health is typically one of the main areas people focus on once January rolls around, and while it may be a more obvious goal in the younger generations, it is just as important for our seniors as well.

If you are planning to focus on your health in 2020, set goals that will benefit both your physical and mental health. Typically, there are small changes and adjustments that can be made to your regular routine that will have a lasting, positive impact overall. Below, we’ve included some New Year’s Resolutions you may want to consider.

  1. Exercise for 20 minutes every day.

As we all know, physical fitness is a key component for a healthy lifestyle and while it may seem intimidating, setting aside even just 20 minutes a day to get your body moving will have added benefits. At The Wesley Communities, there are many physical activities available through our Wellness Centers. Try water aerobics at one of our pools or chair yoga in one of our exercise studios. The front desk receptionists are always available to give you more information on the classes we offer, as well as memberships. If formal classes aren’t something you’re looking to participate in, try taking a regular, brisk walk to get your body moving and your heart pumping.

  1. Spend more time with family and friends.

Being around those we love is proven to have a positive influence on overall health. They are the ones that mean the most to us, they lift our spirits, they are there to lend a listening ear and, in most cases, can provide a dose of laughter when it’s needed most. Make sure you prioritize to give the folks that are important to you the time both you and they deserve.

  1. Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet.

Of course, adding more nutrient-rich food into your diet can sometimes be easier said than done but have no fear, there are quick and easy ways to up the fruits and veggies such as grabbing a banana as a mid-afternoon snack (rather than a bag of chips) or picking a side salad rather than French fries while out to dinner. By making easy adjustments like these, you’ll be surprised when looking back on your week at the quantity of fruits and vegetables you were able to incorporate.

  1. Volunteer in your community or neighborhood.

Getting involved in other interests outside of your normal routine has many benefits especially for emotional well-being and socialization. Look for activities offered at local churches or senior centers that will give you the opportunity to be around other, like-minded people. At The Wesley Communities, we have many activities and life enrichment events for our residents and their friends. From participating in a weekly current events club to picking up a weekly game night with their neighbors, it is all available. Also, use the networks around you to find volunteer opportunities in the local community. Giving back is two-fold in that it makes a difference not only to those you’re helping, but also to you.

  1. Strengthen your brain.

As we age, exercising our brains is just as important as exercising our bodies. Make sure to participate in regular “brain activities” such as crossword puzzles, simple math equations and regular reading to keep your mind sharp and healthy/ For even more brain health, consider being a volunteer on our Brain Fitness committee – contact Peg Carmany, CEO of The Wesley Communities to join.

  1. Plan for your future and help others plan for theirs.

The beginning of a new year is a great time to look at the aspects of your life to make sure you are planning appropriately for any future events and situations that may arise. Are your finances where you’d like them to be? Are your appointments, including doctors scheduled for the year? Take this time to reevaluate how the previous year went and the areas you’d like to improve on to ease your mind of any worries for the future. And, be a helping hand to those around you who may need help getting organized for 2020. If you or a friend are looking ahead to retirement, consider learning more about continuing care retirement communities. We are always here to provide more information on our communities and the services we offer, and we invite you to come for a tour or for lunch with our staff. It is never too early to plan for your future and what better timing than now?

 

The above article was written by The Wesley Communities Marketing Communications Coordinator, Allie DeBor


How CCRCs Can Ease Retirement-Related Fears

One subject that is frequently voiced among prospective residents of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs or “life plan communities”) revolves around the stress associated with envisioning and planning for the future, and indeed, it can feel like a daunting task since none of us have the luxury of a crystal ball. The results of a recent survey speak directly to some of these concerns. Click the link above to learn more about the results of the survey and how CCRCs may ease the fears related to retirement.

 


Boomers Can Achieve Better Health with Super Foods

Super foods. The name alone evokes images of capped heroes, swooping in to save the day. But are these foods really worthy of such superlative nomenclature? And are the health benefits to seniors all they are cracked up to be? For some of these foods, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” But for others, recent studies have given mixed reviews.

What makes a food “super”?

The trademark of most of the super foods is that they are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, “good” fats, and/or lean protein. On top of that, many are loaded with antioxidants. Diets rich in antioxidants are frequently associated with the prevention of cancer, inflammation, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular disease–all issues of concern as we age. Click the link above to learn more about the types of super foods that can help boomers achieve better health.


Physical Fitness and Aging

We all want our parents to remain as active and independent as possible, and we want the same thing for ourselves! Regular exercise is pivotal for seniors. Seniors are at greater risk for disease, lost mobility, and falls than any other age group. Conversely, they often realize the positive effects of exercise more quickly than other age group. If your parent hasn’t been exercising, it can be difficult to get started.

  1. Look for daily opportunities to exercise. Park away from the store and walk briskly to the entrance.
  2. Try several different exercises to find what you like best. You will be more likely to stick with the ones you enjoy doing.
  3. Find a buddy. You are less likely to skip a workout if it means saying “no” to a friend.
  4. Join a walking group, visit your local Y, rec center, park, church or senior center. Malls often open early to allow walkers to get in a workout before the shopping starts. Working those ever important hamstring muscles helps to decrease the risk of falling.
  5. Balance is so important. Stair climbing, getting out of a chair, and other acts of mobility increase your balance.
  6. Breathe deeply. Just filling the lungs with air can stave off pneumonia. Combine those deep breaths with fully stretched arms being raised straight out and then overhead and you can increase your range of motion at the same time. Add some music and work it to the beat!
  7. Keep it fun! Batting around a balloon can be aerobic, and can increase your range of motion whether you do it from a chair or on your feet! There is no need for seniors who use wheelchairs to miss out on the fun, or health benefits. Jodi Stolove’s chair dancing offers a variety of stretching, muscle building, and cardio exercises that can be done from the comfort of a chair.

By exercising the recommended 20 minutes each day, you reap the health benefits of improved circulation, digestive functioning, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, greater strength and flexibility, and a more positive outlook!

The above article was written and published by Barbara McVicker

 


Older Adults and the Benefits of Meditation

At any stage of life, taking time to relax and find peace of mind is important. We all have daily stresses to deal with, and learning how best to deal with them is critical in order to mitigate the negative effects that come with those daily stressors. In today’s world, dedicating time to reflect and relax has become more prevalent. However, sometimes it’s “easier said than done” to find ways to truly bring a sense of calm into one’s day.

There have been numerous studies focusing on specific techniques and methods that increase relaxation and overall health. Chief among these with the greatest positive results, is meditation.

So, you may be asking, “what’s meditation?” According to Psychology Today, meditation is defined as, “the practice of turning one’s attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase, known as a mantra. In other words, meditation means pivoting away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment.”

With so many of us having busy daily lives that require our attention being pulled in many different areas, the art of focusing on one point of reference not only can bring a sense of calm and relaxation, but also a new-found direction and focus for the rest of the day.

While meditation has positive results for all ages, the ones for older adults are even greater. Several studies (with supporting research) on meditation focus on the numerous health benefits for our senior population, including:

Memory

Regular meditation has been linked with increased short- and long-term memory in older adults by stimulating the memory areas within the brain. Since declining memory as we grow older is of great concern, implementing regular meditation practice can contribute to slowing potential decline, while also strengthening current memory status.

Cognitive Improvement

Psychologist Moria Smoski, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Duke Health states that, “Meditation may help preserve cognitive function in folks who are starting to have struggles with cognition. It’s associated with maintaining function longer than if you didn’t have a meditation practice.” Meditation has been shown to have several positive effects on attention, processing speed and overall brain cognition.

Circulation

Meditation also can help contribute to better circulation and oxygen in the blood which is important for our elderly population as this declines at an ever-increasing rate as we age.

Loneliness

A 2012 study published in “Brain, Behavior, and Immunity” found that a total of eight weeks of mindful meditation decreased loneliness in seniors and increased a sense of connectedness.

Ultimately, all of us should try to practice meditation to clear our minds and put aside the stresses of the day. For our elderly population however, the additional benefits of meditation are endless. Not only can seniors educate themselves with resources on proper meditation techniques such as books and online articles, but many CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities) have wellness centers that promote classes and seminars by trained professionals that focus on relaxation and meditation. By participating, residents can regularly incorporate meditation into their schedules to in turn, maintain better overall health and happiness!

The above article was written by Allie DeBor, Marketing Communications Coordinator at The Wesley Communities.


Healthy Aging Through Food

We all know that a low salt, low fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber can reduce the risk of age related health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases. However, there are lots of other foods out there. Can you eat those other foods and still experience healthy aging? Yes! Click above to learn more about healthy aging through food.