The New Workout
Dozens of Boomers in
the Westcott Lakes
community in Tallahassee,
Fla., are getting
their workouts without
ever breaking a sweat, thanks to
the life fulfilling community’s regular
It’s only one example of a workout
trend more and more Boomers are
investing their time and money in –
maintaining their brain health.
Brain stimulation is vital to every
aspect of our daily lives, from thinking
to remembering to feeling to working.
Even as debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia claimed the
minds of more and more once vibrant
seniors, it was often ignored by health
and fitness gurus for focus on more
traditional areas of health, such as
physical exercise and diet (which are
both important components of overall
But thanks to thousands of
Boomers striving to stay physically
and mentally sharp as they begin to hit
their 60s, increased attention to brain
health has swept the nation.
Case in point – the U.S. market
for home computer software aimed
at brain fitness reached $225 million
in revenues in 2007, according to
a SharpBrains report. That was an
increase of $125 million from 2005.
The research and advisory firm
estimates the figure will reach $2
billion by 2015.
“There does seem to be an increased
interest among aging ‘baby boomers’
and others in ways to maintain mental
clarity,” said Dr. Mark Williams, head
of geriatric medicine at the University
of Virginia Health System.
“Some of the reasons may be the
aging of the population, the increased
prevalence of memory difficulty with
aging – although importantly aging
does not cause memory loss – and the proactive lifestyle of
the boomer generation.”
‘USE IT OR LOSE IT’
While neuroscience is a very active field, Williams, author
of “The American Geriatrics Society’s Complete Guide to
Health and Aging,” said much additional information is
needed to determine how best to keep aging brains active.
While there’s an increased interest in brain-healthy
therapies that keep aging minds quick, medical experts are
fast to point out that many brain-fitness programs cannot
offer specific results.
It can’t cure Alzheimer’s and consumers should use
common sense, read a variety of sources and be cautious of
exaggerated claims and “miracle cures” when seeking out a
brain workout program.
Still, a good rule of thumb for keeping your brain sharp
is the advice the Human Resources person at work would
always give you about your vacation time.
Use it or lose it.
“(It’s) just as applicable to keeping mental processes
sharp as for any other system,” Williams said. “Physical and
mental exercises seems important as does varying the daily
routine. Try new things, experience new experiences, break
your daily routine periodically.”
A BRAIN-HAPPY PLACE TO LIVE
The Westcott Lakes community is full of Boomers who don’t
want to wind down their lives sitting in the rocking chairs
out on their front porches, said Christopher Mulrooney,
a regional vice president of Praxeis, which develops “life
fulfilling communities” – a phrase the company has
Mulrooney is also CEO of the company’s Westcott
Lakes at SouthWood, which expects to break ground for its
270-unit Life Fulfilling Community early next year (though
several of the community’s future residents already live
minutes from their future homes).
The project, within six miles of and in partnership with
Florida State University, is akin to another prominent Praxeis
community, Oak Hammock, a $132 million development at
the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Like its predecessor, Westcott Lakes at SouthWoods is
for people 62 and better that activities that will keep them
mentally fit in addition to other luxuries such as on-site
physical fitness clubs, tennis courts and socializing venues
within a gated, country-club-style setting.
“It’s central to the overall philosophy of wellness that
we have,” Mulrooney said. “For us to feel like we’re making
a contribution to our residents’ lives, we want to make sure
we’re offering them some cutting-edge programs.”
The community’s self-paced Brainerciz classes utilize the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, a breakthrough
computer-based technology designed by scientists to
improve memory and sharpen thinking.
brain fitness program in August and
Mulrooney said the response has been
tremendous. Residents are already planning a
“graduation” for completing the first level of the program
and several have commented that they’ve noticed their
memory and concentration improve since beginning
“They’re excited about continuing their learning,”
he said. “(Boomers) believe in lifelong learning and
want to prolong their cognitive functioning for as long
MAINTAIN YOUR BRAIN
The Alzheimer’s Association offers these tips to keep your
brain sharp and active.
• Head First – Good health starts with your brain so don’t
take it for granted. It’s one of the most important body
organs and it needs care and maintenance.
• Take Brain Health to Heart – Heart disease, high blood
pressure, diabetes and stroke can increase your risk of
• Your Numbers Count – Keep your body weight, blood
pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels within
• Feed Your Brain – Eat a low-fat, low cholesterol diet that
features dark-skinned vegetables and fruits; foods rich in
antioxidants; vitamins E, C and B-12; folate and omega-3
• Work Your Body – Physical exercise keeps the blood
flowing and encourages new brain cells. It doesn’t have
to be a strenuous activity. Do what you can – walking 30
minutes a day – to keep both body and mind active.
• Jog Your Mind – Keeping your brain active and engaged
increases its vitality and builds reserves of brain cells
and connections. Read, write, play games, do crossword
• Connect with Others – Leisure activities that combine
physical, mental and social elements are most likely to
prevent dementia. Be social, converse, volunteer, join.
• Heads Up! Protect your Brain – Take precautions against
injuries. Use your car seat belts, unclutter your house to
avoid falls and wear a helmet when cycling.
• Use Your Head – Avoid unhealthy habits. Do not smoke,
drink excessive alcohol or use street drugs.
Think ahead – Start Today! – You can do something
today to protect your tomorrow.