Mind games designed to keep brain fit

KIM STEELE/Miner<BR>
Sisters Kai Shipley (left) and Sharon Bryan practice shaking hands with their non-dominant left hands during an ongoing 10-week class about the importance of regularly using mental exercises to keep the brain stimulated and sharp.

KIM STEELE/Miner<BR> Sisters Kai Shipley (left) and Sharon Bryan practice shaking hands with their non-dominant left hands during an ongoing 10-week class about the importance of regularly using mental exercises to keep the brain stimulated and sharp.

KINGMAN - The mental exercises at the recent Super Noggin class were fun for Kai Shipley and her sister, Sharon Bryan.

Together, they searched for the single C in a paragraph of O's, struggled to locate the solitary 6 in a paragraph of 9's and scoured a paragraph of M's for the only N. They read a page of upside-down type without turning it over, wrote their names with their non-dominant hands and tried to identify whether left or right hands were being displayed in a series of hand pictures.

While both women enjoyed the activities, they also had a serious reason for participating in them. Shipley, 64, who moved to Kingman three months ago from Bernalillo, N.M., and Bryan, 68, who followed five weeks ago, are concerned about their brains as they age. They attended the class at the Kathryn Heidenreich Adult Center to learn how to keep them healthy and active.

"It's scary how forgetful we're getting," said Shipley. "I think we're all frightened when we think of Alzheimer's and dementia. Sometimes we hear it's hereditary, and other times we hear that things like depression can cause it. We worry a lot about it and want to learn how to pay attention more."

The class was the second in a 10-week series of classes sponsored by Super Noggin, a national brain health program designed to maintain and improve brain fitness. Anita McKenzie-White, activities assistant at the adult center, attended training on the program in Parker earlier this year so she could bring it back to Kingman and share tips and exercises.

Classes include 10 steps to brain fitness, remembering names and faces, memory techniques, mental exercises, mindfulness and memory, life review and memory enhancement, better sleep and stress reduction. According to Super Noggin, research shows that adults fear dementia more than death, and the program can help them be more proactive about their cognitive health.

McKenzie-White said scientists now know that throughout life, the brain can grow new brains cells or neurons through a process known as neurogenesis. Also, said McKenzie-White, the brain has neuroplasticity, which means it can adapt and change in response to learning and new experiences.

Training the brain is crucial to keeping it stimulated and sharp, said McKenzie-White. That entails using meditation for stress relief; cognitive training to help with memory, attention and reaction time; and cognitive therapy to help people shed their negative way of thinking that leads to depression and attitude problems. Tips include taking up a new hobby, reading books, traveling to new places and learning a musical instrument.

"Everyone needs to know this kind of information," said McKenzie-White. "It's a good prescription for brain health.

"Dementia and Alzheimer's are not just old people's diseases. Young, vital people are developing them. That's why it's so important to take care of the brain and find new ways to keep it active. And I'm happy to share what I've learned so the people in Kingman can do that."

Next class: Faces, names

The Kathryn Heiden- reich Adult Center will present the third in a 10- part series about brain health, "Remembering Names and Faces," from 9 to 10:30 a.m.Tuesday in the center, 1776 Airway Ave. For more information and to sign up for the class, call 757-2778. There is a $1 donation to the center to participate in the class.

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