Coming soon: An online workout for your brain

For older people, going to a gym on a regular basis helps to build strength and stamina by exercising the body in systematic, increasingly exerting ways. This effort pays off with a reduced chance of falls, better coordination and balance, improved sleep, stronger muscles and a more positive self-image.

As we age, our brains need consistent exercise, too. Aging brings with it a host of “senior moments,” when we begin to second guess ourselves, becoming more easily distracted, forgetful, and less able to concentrate for long periods of time. Taken together, these senior moments can add up to unsettling feelings of fear and anxiety. Is it Alzheimer’s or perhaps some other kind of dementia?

For healthy, community-dwelling older adults, Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska has some good news. Beginning in July, we will offer a new program for those who find themselves worrying more about memory loss, and who want to take charge of building resistance to it. The new program, Mind Aerobics™, was developed by the non-profit New England Cognitive Center as a non-medical intervention to help stabilize and in many cases even improve function across six domains of cognitive functioning. Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska (ARA) will offer the Mind Aerobics™ as a virtual program made up of two distinct courses, Mind Sharpener and Mind Works, that are designed for persons with none to mild diagnosable cognitive loss.

Independent research studies have shown that there can be improvement/stabilization in the six cognitive domains the Mind Aerobics™ targets – reaction time, visual/spatial, attention and concentration, memory, language, and problem solving. Each of these have real-life implications in how we move through our daily activities, and just like with physical exercise, regular brain workouts help strengthen our minds and keep them fit.

Participants in ARA’s Mind Aerobics™ program will work out on Zoom two times a week for one hour for a total of 12 weeks (24 sessions). Prior to beginning the course of workouts, each participant will have a complete assessment of their baseline cognitive functioning conducted by an independent researcher from Minnesota State University. Following the 24 sessions, the assessments will be conducted again to evaluate progress in the six domains. Participants will thus be able to see for themselves the benefits of their participation, as well as to identify areas needing additional workouts.

There is no limit to the number of courses in which an individual may participate. In the event that an individual learns through their medical care of the presence of a dementia, including those that are progressive, eventually ARA will be offering specially developed Mind Aerobics™ programs that can help at each stage of the illness.

For more information about this exciting new program and to see if you qualify, you may contact Ken Helander at the Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska at 907-561-3313. As of now, the Mind Sharpener program is virtual and is therefore available to Alaskans with computer access anywhere in the state.