By Dawn Hatfield
GREENVILLE — With a new year just around the corner, many will be focused on getting physically fit in their resolutions, but let us not overlook the extreme importance of maintaining mental fitness as well. As with physical fitness, keeping mentally sharp also takes practice and effort, and Brethren Retirement Community (BRC) residents Gladys Beck, C.J. Hocker, and Pauline Cox are experts in just that.
The three seniors and their commitment to mental and physical engagement put even this decades-younger reporter to shame! Cox is a lover of puzzles of “all kinds.” She spoke to the importance of assembling jigsaw puzzles as a way to exercise the mind. She enjoys doing them in her room and also in common areas, such as the new game room in the Second and Main remodel at BRC.
Beck was quick to point out her co-resident does all of them. “You’ll find C.J.’s initials on every puzzle in here!” Beck and Cox agreed. Beck explained she enjoys completing puzzles in her room, stating, “I have a vision problem, so I need to do them with magnifiers, but I still do them!” Because she enjoys the challenge, she has adapted the hobby around her visual limitation. “I’ve gone from the 1000 down to 300 [pieces],” Cox said. “I thrive on puzzles and games. I try real hard to get residents involved in doing games. We play Aggravation every Tuesday; we play Rummikub every Wednesday, and [Activities Coordinator] Zelda [Riffell] is great at all kinds of activities to keep us involved.”
Beck said, “I think the number one thing is being in touch with people… that keeps you mentally well instead of getting depressed sitting in a room. And exercise! I love to go to exercise in our gym; I love the cyber cycle—that has the screen with the pictures. Thirty minutes three times a week—that’s 40 to 50 miles a month!”
Riffell explained, “Our Senior Fit is very popular here.”
Hocker didn’t express an absolute favorite Senior Fit activity but relayed the importance of his doing seven different exercises on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week. As a World War II Army veteran who served under General Patton and was present at the Battle of the Bulge, it is no surprise Hocker still holds himself to a strict regimen even at 98 years of age. Hocker enjoys playing Euchre four nights a week as well. “There are six of us that kind of alternate around,” he said.
Offering the residents a host of opportunities is obviously very important at BRC. “It’s going to be a busy month. Things have changed since COVID; we’re letting people back in now. We have a lot going on,” reported Riffell. Upcoming field trips for residents include a bus trip to view holiday lights at Eaton park and a separate jaunt over to 3 Joe’s in Piqua for a delicious Italian lunch.
Concerts and sing-a-longs, movie nights, line dancing, chapel and Bible study, and community church visits are just a few of the activities residents look forward to.
Cox said she enjoys watching Gaithers Vocal Band in the new movie theater, and Hocker has enjoyed watching the swan family raise their eight cygnets in the big pond outside. Beck said she enjoys caring for the pet parakeet she’s had for the past four years.
When asked the key to living a long, productive, and healthy life, Cox teasingly said, “Bingo!” Cox is an avid Bingo player and winner who is known to share her prizes with others.
Beck answered, “Focusing on others, and then you don’t worry about your own issues.”
Cox elaborated, “We get together to talk about our aches and pains,” emphasizing again the benefit of socializing and having a support network.
It seems these engaged seniors are doing everything right to keep themselves fit both physically and mentally. On July 20, Forbes.com reported on “5 Ways to Keep Your Brain Sharp as You Age.” In a nutshell, the suggestions included:
1. Exercising for good blow flow to bran, increased mood, and a boost creative thinking and memory.
2. Eating healthy foods, like leafy greens and foods that contain antioxidants and healthy fats, such as omega-3.
3. Challenging the mind with new tasks and activities.
4. Socializing, as, according to the CDC, people who are socially isolated have a greater risk of developing dementia.
5. Ending any bad habits, such as smoking and alcohol abuse, to focus on balance and moderation in all areas of life.
Everydayhealth.com added a few additional recommendations: controlling cholesterol and blood pressure, remaining sexually active, and playing brain games. Parade.com ranks the best brain-engaging apps with a free option as Lumosity, Peak, and Elevate.
For seniors who may be physically or geographically-limited, joining a virtual community, such as GetSetUp Club—live classes for older adults, by older adults—may also be an excellent option to keep them engaged and excited about each new day.
Reach Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at 937-569-0066 or [email protected].