Thinking about a healthy brain
Karen Tyrell would like nothing more than to put herself out of business.
As a dementia consultant and educator, she’s seen first hand the devastating impact Alzheimer’s can have on its victims and their families.
And while science continues to look for clues about its cause and treatments, Tyrell is working to give seniors the tools they can use to keep their brain healthy.
She’ll be giving a workshop March 21, 1-2:30 p.m., at the Bonsor Recreation Complex, as part of the Burnaby Seniors’ Interagency Society’s Healthy Aging Series.
Tyrell says just as the body’s muscles have to be exercised to retain their tone and function, the brain also needs to work out.
There are five regions of brain fitness, explains Tyrell: memory, coordination, focus, word skills and critical thinking.
Doing the daily crossword or Sodoku puzzle might exercise one or two of those regions, but they all need ongoing attention.
“We all need to ensure we’re exercising everything evenly,” says Tyrell.
But unlike a session in the gym or weight room, brain exercise doesn’t have to work up a sweat.
It can even be fun.
Tyrell says yoga and juggling soft balls can do wonders for coordination. Puzzles and games of logic require critical thinking. Board games like Clue can test memory and focus. Reading and conversation help keep word skills sharp.
Brain fitness isn’t just for seniors. It should be a lifelong pursuit, says Tyrell. That’s because a healthy brain builds up a cognitive reserve, a kind of sideline bench filled with healthy backup cells ready to step in should the veteran cells falter in their duties.
“It’s like a bank account, so you have more brain cells available,” says Tyrell. “It can help delay the progression of dementia.”
And with cases of dementia on the increase, it’s valuable to have that bench strength, says Tyrell. In the next five years it’s expected 250,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with some form of the disease.
“People are getting worried if they forget to do something,, they start to panic. We have to help people become more aware of what they can do to take action.”
At the very least, a healthy brain will allow seniors a better chance to maintain their dignity, independence and quality of life.
“People need to be educated,” says Tyrell. “Brain health is for all ages. Everyone needs to be keeping their brain stimulated.”
• Tyrell’s workshop is March 21, 1-2:30 p.m., at the Bonsor Recreation Complex.Free refreshments will be provided and the workshop is free. For more information, contact Heather Martin at 604-689-8609.