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By Joe Longoria, Director of Rehab, Valley Grande Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

As we age it becomes more and more difficult to stay in shape.

Muscles are sore. We don’t have the same flexibility we had years ago. Simply stated, it just becomes harder to stay trim.

The same is true for the mind. Studies clearly show that the more we use our brains, the healthier it will stay. Here at Valley Grande Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center our goal is to schedule activities that have a purpose. One of the major goals is to focus on activities that challenge our residents to think and to preserve their cognitive abilities.

These are not activities just for the sake of activities. They are planned for their therapeutic advantages that will hopefully result in our residents maintaining and improving not only their physical capabilities but also their mental capacities.

On any given day you will see our residents participating in a wide range of activities that encourage them to think, reason, and socialize.

For example, they are participating in hobbies and crafts that could include drawing, Bingo, knitting, gardening, and sewing. Other activities that enhance coordination and mental abilities are dominoes, and checkers, to name a few. They are thinking through these activities that also require coordination.

The one common denominator among all of these activities is that they encourage social interaction. As people age, many become isolated and lonely. Friends don’t visit as often. And families are dispersed throughout the country. Phone calls are often not effective due to hearing loss among the elderly.

Companionship brings out smiles. These activities, some of which are informal, have a very specific purpose – that of keeping the mind active. One popular focus is discussing current events, reading the newspaper to them, and getting their opinions. Our staff also asks them questions about their families, where they grew up, and the things they’ve experienced over a long lifetime. Just think about what an 80-year-old person has experienced – airplane travel, the introduction of television, curing polio, world wars. We can learn so much from them.

These conversations with residents are particularly rewarding for our staff. But just as important, they give the elderly a sense of self-worth and self-esteem since their opinions are valued.