Cyber Monday Gift Ideas for Seniors

by Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, CLL

Happy Thanksgiving. In case you haven’t noticed ~ the holidays have started. Negative political ads have been replaced by holiday “needs” in a nearly-constant bombardment of commercials, while Facebook-ers debated whether or not to shop on Thanksgiving. I think shopping for me would be much more pleasurable if I had a good sense of what each person on my list really wanted. As I was thinking last Friday of the “deals” I was surely missing as work trumped Black Friday, it struck me that you might like a list of ideas for those on your list who are elderly or living in Assisted Living or Nursing Homes. For a complete list of ideas and resources, visit www.agingcareacademy.org and scroll down to “Your Personal Consultant.”

Hobby & Leisure – there are great resources available for everything from adapted puzzles to games and reading. The puzzles should always be age-appropriate (not childlike), and suitable for the current ability – from 4 or 6 pieces to 50 pieces. Magnetic puzzles with stands are great for those with neck problems. For reading, my newest resource is based in solid research from a physician and speech/language pathologist: Reading2Connect.com. This product has adapted graphics and photos, plus reading content tailored to various abilities — people with advanced dementia may still be able to read! Games which spark memories, use contrast and easy to manipulate materials are available at alzstore.com, best-alzheimers-products.com and memoryjoggingpuzzles.com.

Cognitive Fitness – books, activity cards, games and software are available in all shapes and sizes. Attainmentcompany.com offers the Whole Brain Workout series. Resources throughout the web offer products such as “Connect: Memory Enhancing Game” which can be used in a number of ways to improve neuronal flexibility for all abilities.

Physical Fitness – being confined to a wheel chair does not mean you should quit being active. Some of the best exercise videos are now available at very little cost. Enjoying yoga, aerobics and stretching and strengthening is now possible in your own living room or day room. Check out chairdancing.com, gentlefitness.com and the award winning PBS special sitandbefit.org.

Quality of Life – No one should have to watch garbage television, wonder where the family is or be isolated because of changes in communication. A communication book, talking photo album or alternative TV program would improve quality of life for all. Attainmentcompany.com, Alzstore.com and Best-Alzheimers-Products.com can provide ideas for any gift giving budget.

If you order through Amazon, sign up for AmazonSmile and add Hebrew Health Care as your charity: a % of your total will be donated so your gift is twice as nice.  Thank you, and Happy Holidays!

 

Sick of Sudoku?

By: Amanda Aaron,
Director of Life Enrichment and Resident Advocate, Hebrew Health Care, Inc.

You have probably heard that it is important to engage in new types of cognitive exercises to stay mentally alert as we age. Activities which provide a mental challenge assist in strengthening, maintaining, and developing new neural pathways in the brain. The more frequently you challenge yourself the more pathways are built. The more complex the problems you face, the more dynamic the training process becomes, but if crossword puzzles and Sudoku leave you wanting more, don’t think that you are out of options.

As children the brain is a beehive of learning and construction. During the early childhood years we form basic pathways which become our own super highways for information processing and problem solving. If these basic routes are “super highways” then the developmental process provides us with exits, routes, and back roads. We have all sat through traffic, dealt with the frustration of road closings and repairs, as well as accidents. At those times we are grateful for whatever available alternatives we have to reach our destination. We owe it to ourselves to maximize our own potential as well. There may be a time when the same issues hampering a successful commute can apply to your brain function.

How do we maintain our brain?

Think small: If an activity seems too time consuming, you are less likely to make the time for it in your schedule. Training your brain does not mean that you need to face equations of quantum physics or solve the issue of world hunger. If you read the paper, try the word jumble. When grocery shopping try and keep a running total of your purchases without paper and compare it to your receipt. Pick a word of the day and try to use it at least three times in conversation.

Break some habits: Activities that can be done by memory contribute very little to our overall cognitive health. To train your brain try to alter the way you do a reflexive action. Changing habits may be frustrating; however, it is very effective. It forces you to rethink and process; movement, body posture, orientation, and THINK about activities you take for granted. Feeling stumped?

Try to use your non-dominant hand to write your grocery list. Because you have to focus on the construction of each letter, you end up spelling each word mentally three or four times, you have to find a way of holding the paper, pen, and following the flow of your writing differently than you do daily.

Turn off the GPS. When not responsible for judging distance and processing the next step in a series the brain does not retain the same information. Try a new route, give someone direction using only landmarks, make your return trip different from your approach route, or even switch the gas station you always use. New problems require new solutions.

Don’t go it alone: Almost everything is made better when done with friends. Socializing is also a great way to boost your brain power as you never know where a conversation will lead. Do you enjoy current events or politics? Try debating a hot topic with a friend. Do you enjoy a bit of gambling? Join a card club or head to a bingo hall. Love dining? Try a new restaurant. You could ask the waiter for a recommendation and then try and determine what is in the dish. You could also find and make a recipe for something you enjoy but have never made before. If two or more of you make the same item using different recipes it could make for a lovely get together.

Pursue your interests: As life has unfolded you may have had to put interests on the back-burner in favor of raising a family, time for work, or other obligations. It is time to turn that burner on! If you are truly interested in something you are willing to put in the extra effort needed to make it happen. Nature lover? Try hiking a new trail, starting a garden from seed, or move your reading beach-side. Crafty? Knit an item using a pattern, up-cycle an item you would typically have thrown away, or complete a craft without any instructions. Sports fan? When watching a game don’t use positions in conversation with others, join a fantasy league, or try to make a table version of the game at home.

Education doesn’t stay in the classroom: Never stop learning. You have the opportunity to learn something new everyday. Try something simple – Google it. When the answer to a question is “I’m not sure.” Look it up online, take a class, or watch an instructional video on YouTube.

Laugh, laugh, and laugh some more: Laughter heals. There are many studies which will tell you the specific measurable benefits of humor, but toss that aside for the moment. Laughter heals. It contributes to a better outlook, it improves mental health, it contributes to honest grieving, and it makes the hours seem shorter. Humor is a pleasant way to pass the time and as we have already discussed if you enjoy what you are doing you will do more of it. Whether you read the “Humor in Uniform” in Readers Digest, go to a stand-up show or look back through photo albums and reflect on all of the wonderful hairstyles you didn’t have… laugh often.

Have fun! Train your brain! Regardless of which, if any of these, suggestions you take make sure you take the time to LIVE the live you are living. Have a great day!