Whether it’s cardio drumming, banging plastic tubes together to make tones, or sifting through clues to solve a murder mystery, residents at Heritage Communities are benefiting from an inspired approach to cognitive stimulation for seniors.
At Orchard Pointe at Terrazza in Peoria, Arizona, Life Enrichment Director Cindy Powell says it’s about building a program of activities based on the interests of residents. “I’m always looking to find the next big thing that will pull in their strengths and combine socializing with physical movement,” she says. “We want our residents to constantly have new things to do, as well as something new to talk about.”
Cognitive stimulation for seniors: mixing fun with learning
Here are just a few of the activities seniors at Orchard Pointe at Terrazza benefit from:
Who knew plastic could be this much fun? Science World offers this definition: “Boomwhackers tuned percussion tubes are lightweight, hollow, color-coded, plastic tubes, tuned to musical pitches by length. Boomwhackers produce musical tones when struck together, on the floor, or against nearly any surface. They have a “sweet spot” that is a few inches from the end of the tube that gives the best tone.”
Playing with boomwhackers incorporates cognitive stimulation for seniors through fine/gross motor skills, physical movements, attention span, creativity, education, impulse control, and more. “You do not have to be able to read music to participate, because the sheet music is color-coded,” says Powell. “In fact, most residents pick up the songs so quickly they don’t need any written music anyway.”
Powell loves the results her team is getting from involving residents in cardio drumming. “I had one resident say, ‘I don’t know why, but I’m always so happy after cardio drumming.’ We began cardio drumming in our Heritage community because of the benefits it offers those with Parkinson’s. We had a resident with Parkinson’s who wanted to be more involved in activities, and I wanted to come up with something that would be exciting for him.”
“When this gentleman first started cardio drumming, it was hard for him to keep up with the rhythm. But after just four times of being in the group, he was doing great with the rhythm, and just kept improving. You could see his confidence grow.”
Powell says activities such as this work the body as well as provide cognitive stimulation for seniors. “Cardio drumming relieves tension, which in turn means a release in serotonin and dopamine, benefitting both sides of the brain. Seniors in cardio drumming have less anxiety and depression, improved reaction time, and greater confidence. And research has confirmed participating in cardio drumming at least three times a week can significantly improve cognitive function.”
“Residents in cardio drumming are simply happier, which really excites families,” says Powell. “They know their loved one is not sitting in their room.”
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Solving Crime Mysteries
Reading intriguing case files. Sifting through clues. Considering suspicious suspects and comparing notes with others doing the same. Then discussing theories and sharing “solutions.” If it sounds like a great deal of fun, it is. In fact, both Powell and Heritage Pointe at Terrazza Senior Living Counselor Debra Bowls agree it’s been a major hit with residents.
“When residents first move in, they are excited to meet new people and make friends,” Bowls says. “But after a while, they can get bored. That’s why these mystery games are so wonderful. They introduce new energy and interest. Residents discuss suspects, police reports, and their theories. The dining room just buzzes!”
Powell says she works through each mystery first herself, and then guides residents, being careful not to reveal any secrets. “They study the case, record their notes about clues in their own books, and then discuss. It’s so popular; that they wish the meetings lasted longer than an hour! The whole process takes about a month. And it offers great cognitive stimulation for seniors because it makes them think out of the box.”
There’s a bit of extra fun involved. “We’re calling it Margarita Mysteries,” says Powell. “I give them a margarita, but only if they will stay and be part of solving the case.”
The connection between stimulating the brain and having fun with others is what makes Heritage communities such an excellent choice, says both Powell and Bowls. “When people come through our doors researching senior living, the first thing they see is happy people. Residents are rehearsing their role in the bell choir, or playing games, or exercising. It is a way of life in a Heritage community. One of our core values is fun. Another is teaching. And we are doing both.”
“We are truly looking to change the world for seniors at Heritage by keeping our residents happy, active, and engaged. Whether it’s arts and crafts, music, exercise, solving mysteries and more, we love it when a resident says, ‘I’m glad it’s the weekend. I’m exhausted!’”