Archive for the ‘Dementia Training’ Category

Creativity & Lifelong Learning for Elders

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Creativity and Lifelong Learning

Although the stereotype persists that older adults are “stuck in their ways”, close-minded and uninterested in learning, the evidence is quite to the contrary. For decades the prevailing thinking in neuroscience was that the adult human brain was essentially immutable, hardwired, fixed in form and function, so that by adulthood we were pretty much stuck with what we had. But with recent new research has come the realization that the adult brain retains impressive powers of “neuroplasticity” – the ability to change its structure and function in response to experience. This, coupled with Boomers thirst for new knowledge and skills, has created a growing popularity for lifelong learning. In fact, the number of college students ages 40 to 64 has jumped by almost 20% to nearly 2 million in the past decade. And those numbers are expected to keep growing as more and more Boomers return to school to reinvent themselves, once again.

In an AARP study published in July 2000, 9 out of 10 adults ages 50 and over said they wanted to actively seek out learning opportunities to keep current, grow personally and enjoy the simple pleasure of mastering something new. Research also continues to highlight the importance of lifelong learning as a prescription for a longer, healthier life — keeping minds active and people socially connected and engaged. And while the old-fashioned ways of learning something new — reading a book or taking a class at a local college — are still popular, many Boomers are also embracing online education and other new technologies. Today, Boomers who graduated from college 30 years ago are returning to take classes in everything from Italian to modern film, from mastering investing to creating a Web page, to traveling the world to learn about other cultures. As Boomers return to their studies, learning institutions are accommodating them with flexible schedules, satellite campuses, online courses and the like. Boomers are teaching the world that you CAN teach “an old dog new tricks!”

As stewards of lifelong learning, libraries are well positioned to become cornerstone institutions for Boomers, productive aging, and the life of the mind, IF they can also appeal to them with new, intriguing and flexible approaches to learning.

Recent research has shown that the adult brain retains an impressive ability to change through disciplined training and active learning – at any age!



New Alzheimer’s Test Offers Better Opportunities for Early Detection

Monday, April 12th, 2010

ScienceDaily (Mar. 27, 2010) — Early detection is key to more effective she and other forms of cognitive impairment, and new research shows that a test developed at the University of Tennessee is more than 95 percent effective in detecting cognitive abnormalities associated with these diseases.

The test, called CST — for computerized self test — was designed to be both effective and relatively simple for medical professionals to administer and for patients to take.

Rex Cannon, an adjunct research assistant professor of psychology at UT Knoxville, and Dr. John Dougherty, an associate professor in the UT Graduate School of Medicine, worked with a team of researchers to develop CST. The impetus for the test came from data showing that 60 percent of Alzheimer’s cases are not diagnosed in the primary care setting, and that those delays lead to missed treatment opportunities.

“Early detection is at the forefront of the clinical effort in Alzheimer’s research, and application of instruments like CST in the primary care setting is of extreme importance,” said Cannon.

The CST is a brief, interactive online test that works to asses various impairments in functional cognitive domains — in essence, it’s a “fitness test” of sorts for the basic functions of thinking and processing information that are affected by Alzheimer’s and milder forms of cognitive impairment.

Cannon and Dougherty’s research, published in the April issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and in an early online edition of the journal, showed that the CST was substantially more effective and more accurate in detecting the presence of Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive impairment in patients than other existing tests. The CST had a 96 percent accuracy rate compared to 71 percent and 69 percent for the tests that are currently in use.

Part of the goal in developing the test, according to Cannon, was to ensure that the test is useful in the primary care setting, where physicians may not have detailed training in recognizing cognitive impairments, but where an early diagnosis may do the most good for patients.

“Computerized testing is a developing and exciting area for research,” said Cannon, who noted that the test can provide an objective way to determine what diseases may affect the patient and provide information to begin treatments that can blunt the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Cannon and Dougherty, who also are affiliated with the Cole Neuroscience Center at the UT Medical Center, collaborated with Medical Interactive Education in developing the CST over the past two years.


Brain Fitness with Dakim

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Why was the Dakim BrainFitness invented?

A: The Dakim BrainFitness is the product of inventor, founder, and CEO Dan Michel’s experience with his father’s thirteen-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. Dan’s participation in cognitively stimulating activities with his father over the course of several years made him recognize the therapeutic and emotional value of mental stimulation. He also saw a pressing need for a more effective means of providing brain fitness exercise to help seniors use rigorous cognitive stimulation, long-term to defend their brain health-to prevent or slow the development of dementia. Dakim’s team has spent the last eight years developing, testing and refining what senior living providers consider to be the most advanced, effective, user-friendly and entertaining way to help virtually all seniors enhance their quality of life.

How does the Dakim BrainFitness improve seniors’ quality of life?

A: Experts have found that brain health is a ‘use it or lose it’ proposition. Dakim BrainFitness engages the brain with challenging exercises across six cognitive domains, and turns rigorous cognitive exercise (based on standardized neurological tests and exercises) into a compelling and entertaining experience. The Dakim BrainFitness makes the entire experience so much fun for seniors, they’ll want to use it again and again! At Dakim, we believe fun and enjoyment enhance everyone’s quality of life!

Who is Dakim BrainFitness for?

A: Virtually all seniors can benefit from the Dakim BrainFitness cognitive fitness system, from those with normal brain function to those with mild cognitive impairment and even moderate dementia. Dakim BrainFitness is designed to enable seniors to use rigorous cognitive stimulation to prevent or slow the development of dementia. As Gary Small, M.D. says, ‘It’s never too early or too late to start a brain fitness program.’

How many cognitive domains does the system exercise?

A: The Dakim BrainFitness exercises six cognitive domains, including memory (short-term and long-term), language, calculation, visuospatial-orientation and critical thinking.

How long does a Dakim BrainFitness session last?

A: A typical session usually lasts about 20 to 30 minutes, but this can be adjusted-by home users or by care providers in senior living communities, to suit the specific needs of the community and/or its residents.

Does Dakim provide new exercises?

A: Yes! New content is downloaded and automatically installed, via the Internet regularly, as often as every day or two. Our fresh, entertaining content, which is constantly being created and customized for our users, is the key to making the Dakim BrainFitness fun and beneficial!


Wii video games have seniors up and moving

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Irene G. Methe of Belchertown bowls every Monday. But she doesn’t have to don soft-soled shoes or make a trip to the local bowling alley.

Senior Woman Wii bowling

Senior Woman Wii bowling

Instead, Methe, 78, heads over to the Belchertown Senior Center where she and a few other seniors compete in a “virtual” bowling competition using Wii Sports, a video game system produced by Nintendo in which players use a remote control device to mimic actions performed in real-life sports. In addition to bowling, Wii users also can play simulated golf, tennis, baseball and boxing.

Wii Sports, Wii Play and Wii Fit programs have swept the nation, with Nintendo reporting that by March 2009, some 50 million units have been sold worldwide, making Wii the most popular video game system in the world.

The Wii craze has taken hold in retirement communities and senior citizen centers across the country, and locally, many facilities are beginning to offer Wii programs.

At the Belchertown Senior Center, for example, people have been playing Wii bowling, golf and tennis for the past couple of months and there’s a weekly Wii bowling league. The Easthampton Senior Center has a program they call “Say Oui to Wii,” and seniors have formed a Wii bowling league. The Hadley Council on Aging recently held an orientation program for seniors to learn how to use a new Wii system, while at the Lathrop Retirement Community in Easthampton, seniors also are playing Wii golf and bowling. The Northampton Senior Center is trying to raise money to buy a Wii system. A new Wii console, that includes Wii Sports games, costs about $250.

“I’d never done Wii bowling before we got it set up at the senior center,” Methe said. “We are having such a ball with it. I like it a lot. It makes you move and gets you some exercise and it’s fun to be able to get up and participate with different people at all different skill levels. We are all learning together.”

Methe, the mother of six children, bowled as a young woman in a mother’s bowling league, but hasn’t played the sport in many years. She said the Wii program is very similar to real bowling.

“The whole thing keeps score and does everything for you,” she said. “All you have to do is aim the remote straight and release it.” Methe said she would like to bowl at an actual bowling alley, but said it would be difficult to find transportation and people to play with. “This is all right here at the senior center for us,” she said. “We don’t have to go anywhere.”

Methe said the Wii system allows many people at the center with physical limitations to bowl. Methe is the center’s top bowler, with a score of 181, the highest score bowled so far. “That’s better than I did in my normal bowling,” she said. “And there were witnesses!”

Local health experts say any form of exercise is good for seniors, including Wii.

“Exercise is extremely important for elderly folks and there is so much new information now on how beneficial it is,” said Dr. H. Jon Schiller, a family practitioner with Valley Medical Center in Amherst. “If Wii fosters participation in exercise, then I am all for it,” he said.

At the VA Medical Center, Wii is used in all the in-patient units for recreation as well as for physical therapy, says Sandra Diamond, the center’s rehabilitation supervisor. Diamond says she particularly likes the features that track participants’ fitness levels, body-mass index, balance reactions, and other areas, and appreciates the ability to modify the games to accommodate different abilities, including for people who must be seated. Ankle and leg weights can be used for added difficulty, she noted. The Wii is especially popular among young veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, she said, but also is used by older veterans.

“Wii is such a great distraction,” she said. “Everyone likes to stare at TV and now you can combine that with some fun exercise.”

For many seniors, like Methe, the Wii games provide an opportunity to participate in sports in the “virtual” world that they once enjoyed in their everyday lives. Some of these seniors do not have the mobility to get out to a golf course or bowling alley any longer. Inclement winter weather keeps those who are mobile stuck indoors.

“Wii is something you can do inside and it’s easily accessible if you are not as physically able as you were once were,” said Kim Jensen, activity coordinator at the Easthampton Council on Aging and Senior Center. The center just launched a weekly Wii bowling league and plans to offer golf and other Wii games in the future.

For example, Jensen said, bowling is inaccessible to many elderly people because the balls weigh between 5 and 15 pounds or so. In Wii bowling, the player “bowls” with a remote device that “weighs no more than a tissue box.” The game can even be played while seated by those who have trouble standing for long periods or who are confined to wheelchairs.

“If you are sitting in a chair, you can still swing your arm and you don’t even need to have a full range of the arm to play,” Jensen said.

The center offers private one-on-one training sessions for seniors who may find the technology of Wii unfamiliar and intimidating, Jensen added. Once they get the basics, players can join their friends for the weekly Wii bowling league.

“Some people need time to get used to the idea of playing a Wii game,” Jensen said. “They may have seen their grandchildren or great-grandchildren play with Wii and they think of it as just a video game. I tell them it’s a lot more than that. It’s a whole-body game that will get them up and moving.”

Health benefits

Schiller, of Valley Medical Center, said regular exercise, like that provided by the Wii Sports games, can improve balance, stability and coordination for senior citizens and help them retain muscle strength.

“Research shows that seniors who exercise regularly have a 30 percent decrease in falls and a 20 to 40 percent decrease in hip fractures,” he said. Exercise also lowers blood pressure and benefits the heart, increases endurance and prevents osteoporosis and bone loss – all of which are significant concerns for elderly people. Schiller noted the latest research also indicates that exercise can have a beneficial effect on lifting depression, which many senior citizens grapple with, particularly those who are more isolated.

“Sweat is the new antidepressant,” Schiller said. “Exercise improves sleep, reduces anxiety and depression and helps us cope with stress. The news that is exciting us lately is that exercise actually increases the ability of the brain to function and some studies show that new brain cells are formed with regular exercise. … It’s like Miracle Grow for the brain. Exercise improves the functioning of the frontal lobe and literally can help stave off Alzheimer’s disease.”

While Bill Korzenowski, director of the Belchertown Senior Center, says it is too soon to know whether the Wii games are improving the health of seniors there, he said it is clear that people are having fun.

“The people who are using it really enjoy it,” Korzenowski said.

That enjoyment may be part of the key to Wii’s success, says Dr. Beth Warner, an osteopath and hospitalist at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.

“It’s always good for exercise programs to be fun and I could see that being a motivating factor for people to use Wii,” Warner said. For elderly people with “reasonable” balance, she says, Wii Sports games are a good option for exercise. “Most efforts at exercise programs among older adults should incorporate a blend of strength training, endurance and balance,” she said, adding that regular exercise helps senior citizens maintain independence and prevents falls. Once an elderly person falls, she said, they often become anxious about the next fall and may be afraid to go out. Frequently, they become increasingly housebound and immobile, relying on caregivers.

Warner cautioned that elderly people with balance issues should see a physical therapist before participating in Wii Fit, which uses a balance board; players must be able to safely step on and off the board. A simple exam by a physician to screen for joint pains, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, or dizziness should suffice for most elderly patients in good health, she says.

Senior center directors stress that their facilities still offer traditional exercise classes such as yoga, Tai Chi, and osteoporosis prevention, and the Wii is not meant to replace those activities.

Wii has been especially appealing to people who once bowled or golfed or played tennis, but cannot any longer. In most cases, the games are projected on a large screen television, which makes it easier for seniors to see and participate in the action.

“It’s accessible on so many different levels,” Jensen, of the Easthampton Senior Center, said. “People say, ¿Oh those days are over for me,’ and I say, ¿no they are not.’ ”

Once people see others playing, they often become curious and want to join in on the fun. “It’s exciting for people to say, ¿Hey, I can still get up and bowl, no matter what age or physical condition I am in,’ ” Jensen said. “Wii encourages the body to have some body memory and do what they used to do, but on a smaller scale.”

Fun and games

Whether or not they are drawn to the exercise aspect, many senior citizens are getting hooked on Wii.

“I would say that part of it is just the fun and games of it,” said John Clobridge, activities coordinator at Lathrop. “It’s more of a social event. People like playing Wii with other people. Kids like to sit alone and play video games ad infinitum, but it’s not like that with seniors. They enjoy seeing other people do it. It’s even become a spectator sport here.” Several seniors have been golfing on the Wii system at Lathrop and the retirement community is planning a Wii golf tournament this spring.

Ann Hess, 71, who plays on the Wii bowling league at the Belchertown Senior Center, said, “It’s definitely a lot of fun. … It seems like it’s real bowling and you can get a little bit of exercise with it. I think people have found it easy to use. I’d recommend it for seniors everywhere.”

Jensen said it’s been a pleasure to see some previously inactive seniors participate in the Wii bowling.

“For older people who have closed the box on physical activity, the Wii helps open that box back up and takes the lid off,” Jensen said. “When we do the Wii bowling, people are cheering each other on. Someone makes a gutter ball and everyone laughs and they try again and finally get a few pins down. It’s wonderful watching their faces light up.”

Sandra Dias is a freelance writer based in Holyoke.


Cellular Technology Helps Monitor Seniors With Dementia

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Cellular Technology Helps Monitor Seniors With Dementia

A new application for cellular technology now provides another option – in addition to GPS-based technologies – for tracking seniors who may wander due to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. As the number of seniors who need memory care services increases, technologies that enhance care strategies will continue to develop, experts say.

A new company has tapped the GSM (global system for mobile communication) cellular network to support a device called EmSeeQ, reports The New York Times. The company is called EmFinders (“Em” for emergency) and the EmSeeQ “looks like a black watch without a face. It’s placed on the user’s wrist just like a watch … It’s unlikely that a user can remove it, as two hands are needed to do so. So as not to agitate an individual who needs to wear one, the device remains silent and passive with no beeps or lights.”

The latest issue of Assisted Living Executive reports on the latest life safety products – from companies such as HomeFree and Status Solutions – designed to meet the needs of the senior living business and the residents they serve. Assisted Living Executive reports that “technologies related to medication management continue to be high-profile products, particularly as acuity levels rise and residents need help with multiple medications.” Read “Life Safety Outlook”Link Icon in the new digital edition of the magazine, as well as back issues of Assisted Living Executive, at www.alfapublications.orgLink Icon.

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