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Displaying items by tag: brain health

Ahh…Autumn in New England. It’s the perfect time of year to fall into the pages of a good story. 

What’s your reading pleasure? Is it a heart-pounding thriller or a poignant romance? A perilous adventure story or a hilarious whodunnit? Maybe you’re one for historical fiction or true crime? 

No matter the genre, stories are a powerful vehicle for transporting you out of real time and into imaginative places and encounters. But there’s more power in reading than just spurring the imagination: Older adults who are avid book readers are doing a lot to support their health—and they may live longer lives as a result! 

Spoiler alert: Don’t miss the book list—featuring dynamic older adult characters, provided at the end of this post!

Book Reading Supports Good Mental and Physical Health

Reading books can enhance both the mental and physical health of older adults in a variety of ways. The benefits presented in the list below come from research that focused on reading books. Magazines and newspapers are a different type of reading experience; while that type of reading has its own benefits, it is not necessarily the same as when reading books. In fact, when comparing people who read books to non-book readers studies show something very interesting:  Book-readers have a 20% lower risk of mortality compared to non-book readers. Essentially, book reading adds years to your life span! Here are some of the other important ways reading supports older adult health:

  • Reduces stress. When there’s less stress, your body produces less stress hormones and that has a cascade effect on the entire body. Muscles relax. Tension is released. Heart rate and blood pressure are lower. 
  • Promotes a good night’s sleep. Reading within an hour or two of bedtime helps the body settle down and prepare for sleep. Now, you don’t want to be reading on device as screen blue light negatively affects sleep quality. Also, stick with reading something enthralling, which won’t generate worrisome thought. So, keep work-related reading, the daily news, or financial reports off your nighttime reading list.
  • Enhances neural activity. Reading helps the brain forge new neural pathways and strengthen existing neural connections. When you are reading, you’re not away of just how highly active your brain is: The brain is building vocabulary, interpreting context, interpreting characters and their relationships, making connections between the storyline and real life, etc. This neural activity produced while reading promotes brain health.
  • Protective against cognitive decline. By supporting neuroplasticity, the brain and mind stay healthier that means reading can be protective against brain changes in older adults that lead to cognitive decline.
  • Boosts Creativity. Reading is a creative pursuit in itself. It also helps promote your own creativity by way forging new perspective, inspiring new ways to problem solve, or introducing you to a new creative outlet to try. (How often do you read about something before you decide to sign-up for a class or try it out on your own, at home?) 
  • Reduces symptoms of mild depression. Reading can promote problem solving, perspective sharing, understanding, and help an individual foster new associations with difficult emotions. As reading helps enhance positive emotions and reduce negative emotions, it has been shown to reduce symptoms of mild depression

Reading Books as Therapy: Bibliotherapy

You might have heard from someone, or even stated yourself that reading is therapeutic. Now, there is research to back-up the therapeutic value of book reading. 

Bibliotherapy is a creative arts therapy devoted to helping an adult or child move through challenging emotional and life experiences. Using books, primarily, but also poetry and picture books; fiction and non-fiction alike, bibliotherapy provides therapeutic, educational, and developmental support with the goal to improve wellbeing, both overall, and in specific situations (school, work, home, social situations, etc.). It can be used when people are recovering from illness, surgery, a traumatic event, as well as when learning to cope with changes to emotional or physical health.

Five Types of Bibliotherapy

  1. Therapeutic bibliotherapy is used along with psychotherapy and mental health treatment.
  2. Developmental bibliotherapy is used in schools, homes, and organizations to teach and guide.
  3. Prescriptive bibliotherapy is used in medical and mental health settings to educate, inspire hope, support behavior modification, and help with acquisition of new skills.
  4. Creative bibliotherapy is used in groups, such as book clubs or support groups in which literature is discussed for its transformative, educational, or inspirational power.
  5. Informal bibliotherapy is what we all do when we choose a book because we believe that reading it will help us learn something new or cope better with a given situation.

You might find yourself engaged in informal bibliotherapy upon learning about a new medical diagnosis, or if you are part of a support group for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease, or if you are part of a reading group or other type of interest group in your community.

The benefits of bibliotherapy go beyond the benefits of book reading, in general, including but not limited to: helping to reduce clinical symptoms, improve social functioning, reduce loneliness/isolation, instill hope, foster creativity and problem solving, and support recovery.

Books Featuring Older Adult Characters

Having the opportunity to read books that feature characters similar to ourselves as well as those with life experience different from our own is one of the unique features of the reading experience. We asked a few librarians, and we discovered some terrific online resources, to curate this book list—all featuring older adult protagonists, villains, and sidekicks. 

Happy Reading!

Romance

  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson.

An unlikely friendship—and something more—blossoms between the retired Major, a proper Englishman and Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. But can it survive village gossip and the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?  NY Times Book Review

  • Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure, by Courtney Milan

Mrs. Bertrice Martin—a widow, some seventy-three years young—has kept her youthful-ish appearance with the most powerful of home remedies: daily doses of spite, regular baths in man-tears, and refusing to give so much as a single damn about her Terrible Nephew. Then proper, correct Miss Violetta Beauchamps, a sprightly young thing of 96 (ahem, “nine and six”), crashes into her life. When you’re of a certain age, your take on life looks a lot different and Mrs. Martin is going to have the adventure of a lifetime doing things and exploring relationships on her own terms. Author’s Website

Comedic

  • The League of Pensioners (series), by Catharina Ingelman Sundberg

In this series, Oceans 8 meets The Golden Girls! The Senior League—five residents of the Diamond Retirement Home—Martha, The Genius, The Rake, Christina and Anna-Greta—turn to a life of crime. You’ll be laughing all the way to the end as you follow this cracker-jack gals through three books in the series. Learn More

Suspense

  • Before She was Helen, by Caroline B. Cooney 

As the story in this book opens, there’s a retirement-community caper in process. A missing neighbor. A shiny, mysterious object left in place. A photograph that goes viral and an identity long kept hidden faces risk of being exposed. And the dead body pops-up eventually. Things are not always as they seem, and this story quickly evolves into a deceptively dark mystery.
More at Foreward Indie Book Reviews

Horror

  • Ghost Story, by Peter Straub

Written by one of the masters of the genre, this gothic-horror tale centers around a single question asked by the four elderly men of the Chowder Society: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” The question drives the men as they meet to share intensely chilling ghost stories and consume expensive cocktails. But are these stories more than fiction? A chain of mysterious events and death hangs over the Chowder Society. But whose to blame for the suicides and “accidental” deaths that surround them…is something sinister at work? Or is the past finally catching up with the men of the Chowder Society? More books like this at Nightfire 

Mystery

  • An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten

There’s no other way to describe this book of connected stories than to repeat what Kirkus Reviews wrote: “Five connected stories about a murderous old Swedish lady.” Each tale of main character, 88-year old Maud’s misdeeds (murder, even!) doles out a dose of “senior justice”. 

  • The Senior Sleuths (series), by Laurien Berenson

Dick and Dora Zimmerman from are sixty-something crime solvers, specially those of the murderous type. You know, like when a dead body body turns up in an ice box with a note that says, "contents rotten." The Zimmermans are lovable characters with the time, money, wit, and "chutzpa” to get involved despite warnings from police and criminals to stay away. There’s a cast of characters-- residents of the condos where the Zimmermans live in Manhattan and Vegas, who all to eagerly seek Dick and Dora's help whenever foul-play is suspected. *adapted from the author’s website)

Resources for Finding Books with Older Adult Characters

We were impressed that across these lists there were very few duplicate books, So if you haven’t found a book you love among our resources, be sure to talk to the staff at Everbrook Senior Living Community about their book resources, book clubs, and special interest groups.

25 Books with Older Adult Protagonists. This list encompasses books written by authors from various backgrounds and featuring different cultural settings, storylines, and genres. You’re bound to find a few to suit your interest.

Midlife BookList on Facebook. Books that show what makes older adults get fired-up, ticked-off, and maintain their sest for life. These books (and there are a lot) reveal the many perspectives that seniors have on the second half of life—their hopes, fears and challenges, and all of it is weaved into a wide variety of storylines, settings, and dilemmas. From humorous to horrific, from all-to-close to real life to purely fantastical, there is something for everyone in this book list. 

Must Read Books Featuring Mature Characters. This list features heroes and heroines having incredible adventures that will make you want to celebrate and empathize with them as you reflect on your own life’s journey. From feisty senior ladies and gents to salty old dogs and timeless romantics…there’s a character in these stories for everyone to love!

Learn More about the Health Benefits of Reading

Reading for Stress Relief

Why Reading Books Makes You a Better Person, According to Science. Inc Magazine 

Benefits of Reading Books: How It Can Positively Affect Your Life 

Published in Helpful Tips

No matter your age or activity level, you reap numerous health benefits from spending time in nature. Not only is time spent outdoors good for physical health, it is especially good for brain health. New research from the fields of psychology, health, medicine, and environmental science consistently shows that, for people of all ages, who spend as little as 15 minutes a day interacting with the natural world, experience lower blood pressure, less frequent headaches, and are at lower risk for anxiety and depression. With so much natural beauty surrounding the Everbrook Senior Living Communities, it’s easy to get your daily dose of “nature’s medicine.”

How The Lack of Time Spent in Nature Takes a Toll on Health

Enough research has been done to strongly indicate that people who spend the least amount of time outdoors have greater detriment to their well-being: higher risk of mental health conditions, obesity, high blood pressure, and other chronic illnesses. There’s even a name for the ill-effects of not spending enough time in nature—it’s called “nature-deficit disorder.” Nature deficiency contributes to the following health issues:

  • increased stress
  • trouble maintaining focus
  • diminished emotional resilience
  • deficits in self-expression, creative thinking, and reasoning
  • difficulty establishing healthy social connections (at work, in the community)
  • increased risk for and/or worsening of chronic illness
  • loss of connectedness to nature and one's responsibility for protecting it

Even though nature-deficit disorder is not yet regarded as a medical condition, both conventional and holistic health practitioners recognize the significance of the detrimental health effects stemming from lack of contact with nature. In fact, in Canada, doctors can now prescribe national park passes to patients who are at risk for, or who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and certain other mental and physical health conditions. Many more physicians around the world have come to recognize nature-deficit as a nonclinical syndrome that can impair the emotional, cognitive, and physical functioning of adults and children.

The Health Benefits of “Nature’s Medicine”

A variety of scientific studies have looked at nature experiences such as wilderness therapy, backpacking and biking excursions, recreational hiking and camping, time simply sitting in a park or spent working in a garden. These studies have shown remarkable effects on health, particularly for the brain:

Nature’s Effect on Brain Health

Spending time in nature stimulates neural and sensory pathways (the pathways to and from the sense organs and the brain). This helps promote “neuroplasticity,” the process by which the brain forms new, and strengthens existing, neural connections. Additionally, research shows that neural pathways that have been exhausted by stress and the use of technology can be revitalized with regular time spent in nature. 

  • improved cognitive functioning (focus, attention, problem solving)
  • enhanced self-awareness and feelings of peace, relaxation
  • reduced anxiety, depression, and cognitive dissonance
  • enhanced self-esteem and self-efficacy
  • enhanced personal and social relationships
  • reduced stress and worry
  • enhanced ecological awareness 
  • enhanced appreciation for the interconnectedness of life and all its creatures

Nature’s Effect on Physical Health

Some of the health benefits of time spent in nature can be noticed immediately while others happen over time, including improved function of the circulatory system, the heart and lungs, and the musculoskeletal system. We also receive an abundance of natural light when we are outdoors, helping to boost the body’s natural production of Vitamin D, which is important for many physical processes, including a healthy immune system. 

Get Your Daily Dose of Nature

Whether for 15 minutes or a few hours, there are many ways to experience the health benefits of nature:

Forest Bathing. This is not a dip in a river. It's not a hike with a destined path to follow. Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese tradition that only dates back to the 1980s!  Simply, forest bathing is a meditative immersion in which you slow down and intentionally turn your attention to the smells, textures, tastes, and sights of the forest (or trail, or park, or beach as the case may be). 

Observe the Night Sky. Before going to bed in the evening, stand outside (away from artificial light) and gaze at the night sky. Try shifting your awareness from the whole sky to a cluster of stars, to a single star.

Take a Stroll. Leave the fitness tracker at home: This is not a goal-oriented, step-counting walk. Just stroll of as little as 5 minutes up to as long as you desire. As you walk, just breathe and observe. Try not to allow your mind to get caught up in any particular thought sequence. This is meditative walking.

Sit Outside. When was the last time you simply sat in your own backyard or on front porch? Or visited a park near your home or the office? Get there – without the phone – and just be present. 

There are so many other outdoor pursuits you can learn (also good for the brain!). From paddleboarding, to taking a plein-aire art class, to joining a conservancy group to help with cleaning the trails – the point is to get outside and give your brain and body a healthy dose of nature’s medicine!

The Wonders of Nature, Just Outside Your Everbrook Front Door

The residents of Everbrook Senior Living Communities need not venture far to enjoy the great outdoors and the health benefits of spending time in nature. Our communities are nestled among tree-lined streets, near local parks and nature preserves, and New England’s finest trails and waterways are never too far. Discover all that Everbrook Senior Living has to offer… just outside your front door:

Colebrook Village - meander the historic villages and towns in and around Hebron, CT.
Stonebrook Village - sit alongside Enfield Falls (CT) or sojourn nearby hiking, biking, and fishing areas.
Elmbrook Village - explore colonial-era history by foot or take to the trails at Hopemeade State Park (CT). 
Cedarbrook Village - venture into historic Ware, MA; enjoy the verdant hills, trails, and waterways.
Hillsbrook Village - nestled just outside Concord, NH and near Bear Brook State Park. This community is scheduled to open in Fall 2022.

Resources

National Park Service “Get Outside” Program

National Environmental Education Foundation

Natural Attraction Ecology video 

Benefits of Forest Bathing

"Why is nature beneficial?: the role of connectedness to nature." Mayer, F. S., Frantz, C. M., Bruehlman-Senecal E., Dolliver K. Environment and Behavior. 2009; 41(5):607–643. doi: 10.1177/0013916508319745.  

"What Is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis." Barton, J., and J. Pretty.  Abstract. Environmental Science & Technology 44, no. 10 (May 15, 2010): 3947-3955. 

"Green perspectives for public health: a narrative review on the physiological effects of experiencing outdoor nature." Haluza, D., Schanbauer, R., Cervinka, R. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2014;11(5):5445–5461. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110505445. 

"Examining group walks in nature and multiple aspects of well-being: a large-scale study." Marselle, M. R., Irvine, K. N., Warber, S. L. Ecopsychology. 2014;6(3):134–147. doi: 10.1089/eco.2014.0027 

"The restorative benefits of nature: toward an integrative framework." Kaplan, S.  Journal of Environmental Psychology. 1995; 15(3):169–182. doi: 10.1016/0272-4944(95)90001-2  

"The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis." Capaldi, C. A., Dopko, R. L., Zelenski J. M.  Frontiers in Psychology. 2014; 5, article 976 doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00976. [PMC free article] [PubMed]  

The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective. (1989) Kaplan, R., Kaplan, S. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; Republished by Ulrich's, Ann Arbor, Mich, USA, 1995. 

Published in Health & Wellness
Monday, 02 March 2020 04:39

Stonebrook Village Gym Talk: Brain Health

This month in Gym Talk we will be focusing on brain health. When most people think of exercise and physical activity they think of building strength, improving balance and flexibility, or going for a walk. However, exercising the mind is just as important as exercising the body. The mind needs to be challenged daily in order to keep the brain working to the best of its ability for as long as possible. 

As we age, maintaining a sharp mind is a top priority. Activities you do to improve your body also benefit your brain. Exercise can increase the blood flow and oxygen to your brain as well as help your brain grow new neuronal connections. Mentally stimulating activities for your brain are just as important. Brain games help individuals to stay focused on the task at hand, remember instructions and improve our working memory so we have the skill to remember and use relevant information while performing an activity. Try participating in arts and crafts, do word puzzles and logic games, work on a jigsaw puzzle, attempt a sudoku puzzle or trivia game to help exercise your mind. 

Try a few tasks that target memory and attention:

  1. Name two objects for every letter in your first name
  2. Say the months of the year in alphabetical order
  3. Name six or more things you wear on your feet that start with an “S”

There are many ways to exercise the mind through brain games and activities. Try the game below for fun! Say aloud what color you see in every word, NOT the word you read as quick as possible. Go from left to right, from top to bottom.

Ready. Set. Go!

word game

Published in Healthcare
Monday, 15 July 2019 16:11

Stonebrook Village Gym Talk: Brain Health

This month we’ll be focusing on exercise and brain health. This is a topic that usually doesn’t get a lot of attention but is very important as far as one’s mental health is concerned. When we talk about exercise were always referring to the physical part of exercise and tend to leave out the mental part, so we wanted to share some awesome news on this topic!

Let’s talk about an overview of the brain first. The brain is one of, if not the most complex, organs in our body. The human body cannot physically and mentally run without a brain. The brain produces our every thought, action, memory, feeling and experience of our lifetime. It weighs about 3 pounds containing millions of neurons (nerve cells) working hard each day so what better way to treat your brain than to exercise it with physical activity and nutrition!

Published in Stonebrook Village
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