Reducing Age-related Dementia

Age-related dementia affects a great number of people. As the baby-boomer population continues to age, this number is likely to rise.

Two Oklahoma women entrepreneurs, Dr. Jamie McCracken and Dr. Kathy Goff-certified gerontologists, and adult education, creativity specialists- have developed a mentally stimulating board game for older adults called Senior Savvy BrainstormersTM.

The idea for creating Senior Savvy Brainstormers came in conjunction with the 1988-1990 Quality of Life research study conducted by the University of Georgia.

The project, designed to increase independence in older adults through physical and expressive activities, was of national significance.

According to the research, Senior Savvy Brainstormers sparked the imagination, promoted participation and stimulated communication and socialization among those who took part in the study.

Life satisfaction scores taken before and after the project showed a measurable increase in levels of happiness and well-being as well as higher creativity scores, thus establishing a possible link between creativity and life satisfaction.

“Senior Savvy Brainstormers is a ‘brain game’. Playing this game stimulates the mind. Bingo is passive; brainstorming is active. It calls for creative thinking,” said Goff. “Bingo, checkers and crossword puzzles do not generate creative thinking.”
“Brainstorming common words increases fluency ease by exercising and stretching the brain, basically like calisthenics,” said McCracken. “It helps us to become flexible in our thinking and enables us to find many options when we are facing a decision.”

Jacqui Sanders, a certified recreational therapist at Life Adult Day Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma, has used a prototype of Senior Savvy Brainstormers for 12 years.

“It has been a hugely successful activity we have used to assist our participants in maintaining and/or improving their function levels,” said Sanders. “It’s a great game and I recommend it to every facility.”

To play Senior Savvy Brainstormers as a group, first divided the room into teams. Draw a card for the first team. Read the card. Turn the 1-minute sand timer over. Go! Move that team’s marker one space on the board for every answer given during the 60 seconds. All team members join in. The first team home wins.

There are no wrong answers. Peer pressure dictates the group, so lots of interaction can occur as teams try to distract other teams from naming whatever it is, in the allotted time.

Senior Savvy Brainstormers is a way to keep one’s mind active in a group setting, even while quilting or participating in some other worthwhile activity.

Senior Savvy requires only one person to read the questions and move the pieces, making it possible to engage in other activities while exercising the brain.

“Play, to many older adults is a four-letter word because that means you’re idle, and if you are idle the devil is going to be creeping in,” said Goff.

“The term “mental exercise activity” to keep the mind active is OK. They know they need to keep their minds active so they can remember their pill regiment and all the things they need to do,” said Goff.

“Other body parts become weak and eventually useless when not properly exercised. Why would the brain be any different?” said McCracken.

Senior Savvy Brainstormers not only benefits seniors, it is great for groups or families with members of all ages. Although originally intended for older adults, even young children enjoy playing in a family setting. This game is truly one that all ages can enjoy. No “odd man out” problems exist with this game.

Senior Savvy Brainstormers comes in a sturdy cylinder to alleviate the problems of smashed box lids associated with many board games. The game board is a soft mat-like material.

For information about McGoff Creativity or Senior Savvy Brainstormers board game, which sells for only $25 + S&H, phone (918)865-4637, fax (207)226-5717, or email at Mcgoff@cimtel.net or visit the web page at www.mcgoffcreativity.com

THE REASON FOR THIS STORY

I first learned about Senior Savvy BrainstormersTM board game while researching information for a journalism class. It sounded good so I decided to check it out and contacted the developers. They gave me a copy.

Eager to share this discovery, I called a local nursing home, asked for the activity director and she agreed I could come on Monday at 2 p.m. to play this brainstorming game with the residence.

Several people where sitting on the front porch when I walked up, so I said hi and told them I was there to play a new game. The group’s unofficial spokesperson, a not very old woman with thick glasses (you could tell she could barely see), said to come and get them as soon as I was ready. The others nodded in agreement. I felt so enthused!

At the main entrance of the nursing home was a large television room. It bothered me that so many of the residence were just staring into the large screen television, watching a man sanding a shelf. I could almost see it sapping the very mind of the people. It was a nice roomy area with plenty of comfortable seating and room for wheelchairs. It would definitely be a great place to play the game.

To make a long story short (you know it won’t be), the woman who I spoke with on the phone changed her mind at the last minute. She said they were going to play bingo today. “They don’t like change.” was the only reason given.

I forged ahead, despite her lack of interest, to show her the game and explained how simple it is to play, but she just kept repeating, “They don’t like change”. I told her we could play this game for 10 minutes and then if they wanted they could play Bingo, but she would not budge from her notion.

I told her there were people outside who wanted to play. Could I get a small group together? She denied my request. I asked her if the residence did not like change or the workers. She said it was the residence.

As I left, the woman with the thick glasses yelled to me, asking if we were going to play now. Two of the oldsters were actually standing up with canes; I believe, to go inside and play. That is when I lost it and started crying. I hope I never end up in a place like that.

Television seemed to be their main form of recreation. Oh, forgive me; their big recreational time is an hour of bingo twice a week.

This scenario seems to me like a terrible waste of those individuals with the wisdom of age. It is almost like a form of abuse.
Oh, do not get me wrong; these individuals were clean and dressed. They looked well groomed and cared for, with their hair brushed and everything. The facility seemed clean and sterile. It did not stink or anything (at least not where I was). It just saddens my heart to know that the human brain suffers from neglect by ‘good’ health care.

I have now undertaken a personal crusade to educate the public, particularly those with influence, of the vast lack of proper mental care our oldest citizens receive. It could prove very cost effective to stimulate and awaken minds with something as simple and fun as a board game.

This game might also be just the ticket for the outside to “come and play” with those incarcerated in nursing homes around the country. This game is great fun for the entire family. My daughter and son-in-law like it. Even my 5-year old granddaughter enjoys it.

Yes! I am becoming a bit of a radical, but I know that when something is the right thing to do, IT NEEDS TO BE DONE.
A few days later I took the game to the other nursing home in town. Both the staff and residence were glad to play it. So much so, that I ended up leaving it so they could continue to play. The game was definitely a hit.

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