MILWAUKEE – Rick Aaron is teaching a class; the students aren’t wearing Greek colors and there’s no talk of summer internships.
It’s not that kind of class.
He asks a question, raising his voice to make sure everyone can hear: “If you could be invisible for one day, where would you be and what would you want to see?”
“Downhill skiing in the alps,” says one woman.
“The Brewers stadium. And find someone else to play baseball there,” says a man, which gets some laughter out of the elderly class of about a dozen.
And let’s not even talk about the gentleman who jokes he’d like to “see the nice ladies” at the beach in Tel Aviv.
Now comes the serious part. Aaron gets them thinking. Remembering, that is. Because that’s a big part of what this is all about. ReCharge!, a class that’s open to the public at Ovation Communities, seeks to improve memory, focus and concentration. So Aaron starts asking for some use of those abilities.
What did this classmate say? What did that classmate say?
“What was she doing in the alps?” he asks.
Research indicates that more mentally active people will do better, according to ReCharge! organizers. ReCharge! starts each session with this interactive brain class, followed by lunch with friends and finally a body fitness class. Socialization and staying active can help slow down mental decline associated with dementia, said Dana Rubin-Winkelman, a social worker at Ovation Jewish Home Adult Day Services and Ovation Chai Point Senior Living.
Classes are held — sign up in advance for a fee — at Ovation Chai Point Senior Living, 1400 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee, and Ovation Sarah Chudnow Community in Mequon. A class is typically held weekly, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The classes are open to non-Ovation residents and, in fact, the majority of attendees are not residents. The “if-you-were-invisible” questions are just one arrow in ReCharge!’s stuffed quiver of memory and socialization activities.
The program started up about four years ago and organizers consider it a success. Dawn Adler is director of adult day services at Ovation Jewish Home and a frequent teacher for the class. She said families talk about how outside of class, participants are “talking more, they’re interacting and there’s more give and take.”
Rubin-Winkelman agreed. “We can’t say the dementia will stop,” she said. “Doing nothing means there will be a steady decline.”
Neil Shafer, 84, brings his wife, Edith, 76, to the class. “It’s stimulating the brain, that’s really what is is,” he explained.
Close to 40 older adults are taking the class at the two locations.
The class energy at Ovation Chai Point Senior Living during a September visit was good-natured, for sure. The staff themselves feel rewarded by the whole experience.
“I feel like I was meant to be here,” said Rubin-Winkelman. “I love it.”
For more information about ReCharge!, contact Dawn Adler at 414-277-8838 or DAdler@Ovation.org.
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Did you know that both controlled lifestyle choices and regular fitness exercise – both physical and mental – have a direct effect on the brain?