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Wellness: Thoughts about Thinking

Define: Wellness

Wellness is defined in Webster's Dictionary as, "The focus of health on the whole person." To achieve optimal wellness, Presbyterian Homes & Services' (PHS) WINGS® wellness focuses on six key areas of health—intellectual, social, vocational, spiritual, emotional and physical wellness.

Yet, when most people think about wellness, their first thought is physical fitness. As we age, it is equally important to focus on brain fitness: our ability to reason and meet the cognitive demands of life. Brain fitness can be measured on the cellular level by the rate at which new neurons are created, and new connections in the brain are formed. The fitness of the brain is usually measured by improved attention span, decision-making ability, memory and concentration. 

Brain Fitness

Brain fitness can be improved by brain work-outs, the same way a muscle can gain strength and flexibility through a physical work-out. Not only do brain work-outs improve normally functioning minds, they may also help prevent some age-related dementia.

A good brain work-out should provide novelty, variety, challenge and practice. Learning to play a new musical instrument, studying a new language, and engaging in a new game are all excellent ways to practice brain fitness. Some people challenge themselves to learn a new discipline, such as Tai Chi, which exercises both the mind and the body. 

The Alzheimer’s Association suggests that adopting healthy lifestyle habits, including exercise, nutrition, cognitive activity and social engagement, can help keep your body and brain healthy and potentially reduce your risk of cognitive decline. To keep your mind active, it is important to participate in activities that expose your mind to new topics and ideas. 

Avalon Square and Kirkland Crossings, PHS senior living communities located in eastern Wisconsin, offer an innovative approach to brain fitness as part of a holistic wellness program. Brainy Bunch, a group brain fitness class, brings residents together to interact in a fun and engaging cognitive work-out consisting of puzzles, problem solving, and retention exercises. These call on language and math skills and exercise both short and long term memory. “We believe that this is another opportunity for older adults to remain healthy and active,” said Sue Luna, PHS Regional Wellness Director. “We found something that the participants truly enjoy and all involved believe there is value on many levels,” she said.

Other PHS communities support intellectual wellness by offering Wii® bowling, needlecraft groups, art studios or woodworking classes that exercise hand-eye coordination and elevate concentration. PHS community members may choose to join book clubs, current event discussion groups and educational classes that stretch thinking skills. 

Think about your day-to-day life and find ways to interject new and varying activities that push you to a higher level of achievement, both physically and mentally. You’ll improve your fitness—body and mind.

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