The following article, was written by Bob Moos of the Dallas Morning News, and the copyrighted article was published in the June 15, 2007 issue of the Albuquerque Journal
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Seniors stay sharp by flexing minds...
DALLAS...When Chester Cohen visited the Conservatory Senior Living community in Keller, Texas, last year, he was impressed that it has not one, but two fitness centers. The first comes equipped with exercise gear to keep the blood cirulating and muscles toned...stationary bikes, treadmills and weights.
But the second appealed to the 85 year old even more. It houses a brain fitness program to keep the mind sharp. Residents sit at computers and put on headphones to work on a series of listening exercises. A coach guides them through the drills.
Cohen and his wife of 52 years, Hazel, moved in and signed up for the eight-week program, developed by Postit Science Corp. After completing the 40 hours of computer exercises, the two say they're better at remembering names and concentrating on what people tell them. "I'm having fewer senior moments," Cohen said.
The Cohens are on the leading edge of a revolution that's overturning the belief that the brain is like a machine and that, like all machines, it wears out. Recent research shows that a normal brain, if challenged, can remain active as long as the rest of the body. "Scientists once thought that the brain was hard-wired at birth and that some cognitive abilities began declining early in life," said R. Sandra Chapman, director of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas. "We know that good nutrition, physical exercise and mental stimulation can improve the brain's functioning at any age."
Chapman said the brain can rewire itself and become stronger. A new scientific understanding is giving rise to products and services that cater to an aging population worried about mental decline. Experts predict a raft of brain training software and Web sites to arrive on the market before long. Fitness-minded people can also work on their hippocampus at happy-neuron.com (make your brain sweat) or mybraintrainer.com (you'll never think the same way again)
"People want to stay at the top of their game, not only physically but mentally," said Nancy Ceridwyn, director of strategic initiatives for the American Society on Aging. "They understand that living a long life isn't enough. What matters is the quality of that life. Why live to 90 if you can't enjoy it?" But with the growth in the industry will come the need for consumers to tell the legitimate products from the dubious, Ceridwyn said.
" This industry represents a huge opportunity for charlatans, so consumers should look at the credentials of the scientists behind each program," she said. If consumer are looking for scientifically proven results, she recommends searching the Web for the program's clinical trials. Senior communities are becoming fertile ground for the emerging brain health field.
Dallas-based Conservatory Senior Living promotes itself as the first company in Texas to offer Posit Science's brain fitness program. Brain health is a passion with Conservatory founder and president Marvin Myers, who, at 84, still puts in long workdays. After Myers heard of Posit Science's program, he researched and tested it and then added it as a amenity at each of his senior independent-living communities.
"I suppose I could be accused of acting out of self-interest because the longer people stay alert and indepandent, the longer they'll be able to live with us," he said. But business reasons aside, Myers considers brain fitness as important to healthy aging as nutritious meals and regular physical activity.
"I expect that brain gyms will become fixtures in all senior living communities in time because the residents will demand them," he said. "Everyone is looking for ways to stave off memory loss or dementia."