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A: We know [the elderly] need to be doing A LOT of activities. You can't have people just learning words, for example. Then, they'll get better at learning lists of words. Sustained attention is what really drives memory. You can't leave out the social dimension.
Q: How do well-run programs make a big difference?
A: If you have a high-quality cognitive enhancement program, the residents are energized by it. It can change the whole community. There's an improved perception of social support and a decreased perception of loneliness. It allows them to make new memories, and also has social quality-of-life implications, all of which increase quality of life for the resident.
Q: What should providers do?
A: Pragmatically, long-term care providers need to provide time and resources for the activity director. It's a holistic approach. There needs to be a long-term lifestyle change.
Rob Winningham, Ph.D., is the author of the book “Brain Training: How to Maximize Memory Ability in Older Adulthood” (Baywood Publishing).