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Keeping Memories Alive with Brain Games

by Nanci Levy | Sep 12, 2016

Brain Games

Every Friday morning at 9am about a dozen Handmaker residents gather in the Rubin Café at Handmaker for their weekly dose of Brain Games. Led by Handmaker’s Assisted Living Manager, Anne Lopez, this class brings smiles to the faces of residents, while also helping them to work on their memories.

“As we age, our short term memories fail, which can be really frustrating. Unfortunately, after a certain point, there is not that much that we can do to restore it. But we don’t lose our long term memories in the same way, and we need to keep those stimulated. People can sometimes remember what they wore to their first day of school, but don’t always remember the bigger things. We need to poke at those long term memories, and Brain Games helps to do this.”

Anne comes up with words – usually people, places or things – that are connected with an historic event of the day. Last week she started with the word “Desegregation”. She put 13 short lines up on the blackboard and then asked each resident, in turn, to pick a letter. If they chose a letter that was in the word, she wrote the letter on the line where it fit in the word. Each resident had an opportunity to guess what the word was after their turn if they picked a letter that was in the word. (It reminds me of the game “hangman” that I used to play with my kids.) When the word is finally guessed, one of residents said that she did not know what that word meant. Anne explained the meaning and then told all of the residents that on September 9, 1963, four black students in Huntsville Alabama become the first children to desegregate schools in that town and the entire state.

So began a short history lesson, leading into a discussion between the residents. One resident said that he thought that we still had those problems today, another expressed concern about all the hate there seems to be in the world today, which led to discussion about fears that many residents have about the upcoming presidential election. And so it goes. Anne just moderates, not expressing her opinion, just letting it go where the residents want, stimulating memories and ideas as they go along.

This class goes on for close to an hour, repeating the same scenario with 4-5 words that Anne chooses because of their connection to that day in History. Each word puzzle provides a little short term memory work leading to more long term memory work in the history lesson and current events discussion. Just what Anne was hoping for, and the residents love it. Every bit of mental stimulation that they get helps, and most importantly, a good time is had by all.