Time was, the most exercise a senior citizen got was pushing back the recliner and hitting the remote. Now, the concept of “successful aging” has turned these notions upside down.
The over-55 age group may represent the fastest growing demographic for gym memberships, but proponents of productive aging know that there’s more to life than keeping physically fit. It’s also necessary to keep one’s mental and emotional health in peak shape. Giving one’s brain a workout through games that sharpen the mind and new experiences that encourage socialization are every bit as important as exercises that increase muscle strength and flexibility.
“For seniors, keeping the mind active as well as having access to a social atmosphere is vital for mental wellbeing” said Taylor Krawczyk, Adult Activity Center Supervisor for the St. Charles Park District.
Located in the Pottawatomie Community Center, the AAC is a one-stop shop for a wide variety of scheduled and drop-in programming designed to fire up those mental synapses and jump-start friendly interactions. Regular drop-in programs to play games such as pinochle, mah jongg and bridge provide daily opportunities to exercise one’s brain muscles.
Brain muscles? Just like lifting weights strengthens arms and shoulders, playing bridge or doing puzzles can work specific parts of the brain responsible for complex thought and memory formation. Even the act of picking up cards or game pieces has its benefits, as these actions improve fine motor skills and dexterity.
Such mental gymnastics are the focus of a new AAC program called “Brain Games” being offered this winter. Scheduled for March 15, 2018, from 10 AM to 11 AM, this one-hour session will provide a gentle mental workout by playing games that sharpen the mind. For added fun, participants are encouraged to bring a friend and compete at activities such as crosswords, Sudoku, word jumbles and puzzles. The “Brain Games” event will also encourage participants to share their favorite activities with others in hopes that everyone will find an enjoyable pasttime to keep their mind active.
“Doing games such as these doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit,” said Krawczyk. “A little competition between friends can be so much fun.”
Laughter really is the best medicine, and it is almost impossible to play any kind of game without laughing. Not only is laughing a great ice breaker, it can have quantifiable health benefits such as reducing stress and releasing mood-enhancing endorphins.
Fun is also the name of the game during the AAC’s “Funtastic Fridays!” outings. Once a month, the AAC conducts day trips to local area attractions such as the Aurora Regional Fire Museum or Chicago History Museum or takes an entire day to explore a nearby town such as Elmhurst, where participants can learn about the art and science of polishing stone at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art and tour the 19th-century mansion that is home to the Elmhurst History Museum.
“There are so many activities right in our own backyard that we haven’t heard of that need to be explored,” said Krawczyk.
Other trips on the AAC’s winter roster include a “Thrift Shop Hop” on February 7 to local mainstays such as the Hi-Hat Resale and Always In Style shops in Geneva; a performance of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in February; or a chance to watch the Chicago Steel junior hockey league in action in March.
“The greatest feedback we constantly hear from participants about their favorite part of the AAC is the friendships they make by attending multiple events throughout the park district,” said Krawczyk.
For more information about the Adult Activity Center’s regular programs and special event activities, contact Taylor Krawczyk at 630-513-4324.