BUILDING PARNERSHIPS TO SUSTAIN ‘BRAIN FITNESS’
THE DEMOGRAPHICS ARE ALARMING. More than 25 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is expected to double as baby boomers continue to age. Alzheimer’s can well become the epidemic of the 21st Century.
When people look at the magnitude of this problem, it can appear overwhelming and hopeless. But we at the Glen Cove Senior Center on Long island decided to follow the old proverb, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” With a substantial grant from the local Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, we began an educational “Campaign Against Dementia” project, a year-long pilot program not only for the residents of our small city , but for everyone and anyone who wanted to learn more about ways to slow down the onset of symptoms of this devastating disease by applying a proven “brain fitness” approach to their lifestyle.
We designed a “Mind-Alert” program, with cognitive exercises that are empowering for baby boomers and older persons, up to any age—and the response was amazing. We had more than 100 persons registering for weekly lectures and tri-weekly computer exercises using Dakim BrainFitness software, which most participants found “enjoyable.” Many others accepted our invitations to open houses, professional lectures, and a potpourri of center activities; and many regularly attend our ongoing weekly Brain Booster Club. This multi-pronged approach to educate our city’s middle-age to older population, along with those in the entire Long Island region, quickly became successful because of the hunger for knowledge about memory maintenance as we all age.
To help keep this project going—and growing—we designed a networking program called “Community Outreach,” which appealed to a diversity of providers, including other senior centers, retirement communities, assisted living communities, agencies, fraternal clubs, and the YMCA. Our plan mushroomed into a chain reaction of interest, with dozens of requests for information and well-attended open houses. The project’s culminating effort was a free Brain Fitness Conference, which offered health care and social service professionals a program highlighting current research and diverse perspectives on the subject of dementia.
We believe that until medical preventions and cures are found for this dreaded disease, we have to initiate alternatives to keep our minds sharp. If enough communities become informed and proactive, together we can create enough leverage to cripple the “monster” that cripples its victims, caregivers and the lives of whole families.
If you’re already doing something about Alzheimer’s and dementia where you are, we’d like to hear from you. If you’re considering your own community-wide initiative, perhaps start with some research to begin a public education campaign. And please check out some of the resources that we’ve found helpful on the Resources page of this website.
Constance Miceli, Ph.D., a gerontologist for more than 25 years, is Project Consultant for The Campaign against Dementia. Those interested in more information about the program should contact Carol Waldman, Director of the Glen Cove Senior Center, at cwaldman@cityof glencoveny.org.
For more information on this and related topics, visit the link on our Resources page.
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