Nursing home residents and surrounding community members can break a mental sweat at The Village’s new brain gym offered by the University of Florida’s Health Vitality Mind research program.

The UF Health Vitality Mind program is a continuation of past efforts to provide a “proactive approach” to aging and cognitive deterioration, says Jim Antonucci, executive director of the 639-bed independent, assisted living and dementia care center in Gainesville, FL. Brain health programs have significantly decreased the number of falls and have cut emergency room visits by two-thirds in recent years, Antonucci says.

With the UF Health Vitality Mind program, participants can walk across the street from their residence to play Wii video games, engage in cognitive training with aerobic or anaerobic fitness, or simply meditate. Wii video games have generated the most positive buzz and feedback among participants, says Program Coordinator London Butterfield, Ph.D.

Apart from flexing physical and mental muscles, participants also can familiarize themselves with 21st century technology and build relationships with the researchers, who also reside at The Village, says five-year resident Betty Samara. 

More importantly, the research gives participants a chance to give back to the future health and care of those with cognitive deficiencies.