Brain Boosters – Exercise Your Mind, Tickle Your Funny Bone
“Can you guess which animal was overjoyed when zoos opened back up after the pandemic?” asks Charlotte Pengilly, a long-time resident of The Commons. “Ferrets, meerkats or monkeys?” First, Pengilly explains why it’s a great question. “Options,” she states simply. “If I just asked for the name of the animal that was happy the zoos reopened, you’d either know the answer or you wouldn’t; your mind doesn’t have to do any real work. But if I give you options you have to really think through the possibilities to come up with an answer.”
It’s true. If you want to keep your grey matter in top form, start thinking! You may not always know the answer to a question, but scientists have determined that just thinking it over will keep your brain fabulously fit. Research has proven a direct correlation between simple brain teasers and improved cognitive function in older adults, especially when the games involve active versus passive learning.
Unlike passive learning, which relies primarily on information you already possess, active learning forces your brain to develop new ways of reasoning or problem-solving.
Pengilly knows a thing or two about what goes into making up good brain teasers; as Central Baptist Village’s very own mind maven, she runs Brain Boosters, a bi-monthly class chock full of questions and games designed to stretch your mind like an elastic band. Pengilly spends hours before each class, carefully crafting questions—and all those tantalizing options—to test and tease the minds of her fellow residents. Trivia exercises your memory, but it’s like doing a bicep curl: it works a single muscle, while games that involve strategic thinking, reasoning and word manipulation, for example, are like mental gymnastics—a more demanding, “full-body” workout for your mind. Add in the social element of working together in groups to puzzle out answers and the benefits of groups like Brain Boosters only increase.
The welcome mat is always out for new members to join and mind meld with the group, now more than ever. “We’re definitely in a period of rebuilding,” explains Pengilly. “The pandemic really hit a lot of programs hard. During lockdown we couldn’t meet in large groups, and to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, residents from different areas of the community couldn’t mingle with one another.” She urges residents to drop by for an afternoon game, typically on the first and third Saturdays of the month. “See the group in action!” She adds, “people worry the questions are going to be too hard, but they’re not. They can be challenging,” she says, “that’s the point. But we’re here to have fun, not create astronauts. And we laugh—a lot!”
So which animal was more elated when human visitors returned to their zoo? Meerkats. In this case, while all three species are social, the meerkat is the most social of all. “Will you always get the right answer?” says Pengilly. “No, but just thinking about it stretches your mind and you’ll have a great time.
The Glories of Gardening – No “green thumb” required
Forest bathing may sound like a nutty new fad, but it’s a term used by scientists and health professionals to describe the health benefits of green spaces on humans. Studies show that people who spend even 15 minutes outdoors report feeling calmer, less stressed and happier. So how to explain what exactly is behind this explosion of positive feelings? Researchers compared the brain scans of people who spent time outdoors with those of people who remained in indoors, or in an area without plants, trees or garden beds. Among the “forest bathers,” scientists found a remarkable rise in serotonin, the chemical in our bodies that regulates emotions and mood. Gardening, itself, furthers the beneficial effects with the addition of gentle exercise, opportunities for quiet meditation, sensory stimulation that comes from digging your hands into the dirt and handling plants, and the satisfaction of seeing both short-term and long-term results of plants growing.
Central Baptist Village residents can vouch for this. Whether they gardened before joining the community or have taken up the hobby since, resident gardeners experience and inspire joy in others through their contributions to CBV’s many gardens. Raised planters make gardening accessible (and comfortable!) for everyone. And by the way, scientists have never been able to prove the proverbial “green thumb” exists.
Worship Songsters Return
Hallelujah! The dulcet tones and tunes from Central Baptist Village’s mother-daughter duet, Julie and Joyce Ieron can once again be heard live and in person. The dynamic duo is delighted to perform for residents and staff, and yes, like the Andrew Sisters and The Supremes, they still dress alike.