All Aboard the Brain Train!
Submitted by Annette Morrison, M.S., CRS A/D
Evelyn knew she should have said yes, but she was so used to staying home alone—ever since the pandemic started—and it had become such a habit. When Judy, her long-time friend, had invited her to the new group starting up she automatically declined but now was having regrets. Evelyn felt more forgetful lately, and found she had less balance when she was getting up out of bed and chairs. She sometimes found herself in the kitchen, not remembering why she needed to be there. Her energy level was down and she tried to pinpoint when she had started feeling this way—with the memory, balance, and energy issues… and then she realized, she hadn’t felt this way before Covid-19. In her efforts to keep herself from getting sick by isolating herself, did she do herself the injustice of creating habits that were even more detrimental to her health?
Evelyn isn’t the only older adult that has had a health decline since the pandemic. Many of our most vulnerable population—adults age 60 and older—were advised to socially distance and took this advice very seriously. It was a scary time—but social isolation isn’t a new phenomenon for older adults. Reducing social isolation has been an issue recognized federally that has recently seen increased funding to promote programs to counteract the isolating crisis the pandemic only made worse. As Evelyn has felt personally, social isolation has devastating consequences on the brain and body. It can be reversed by getting back out and slowly resuming enjoyable activities, especially with others. CCSI Case Coordination has created a program to encourage older adults to socialize, and exercise their body and areas of the brain that help maintain elasticity, memory, and problem-solving. We call it the Brain Train, and it is expanding from one to three locations in McLean County this year.
Brain Train is a social activity group that helps combat boredom, loneliness, and mental stagnation by spending twenty minutes on each area of the brain that will help maintain memory. The brain is an organ and much like the heart, it needs exercise to keep working at its peak level. Four twenty-minute Brain Train “stops” focus on working out different areas: Creativity, Logic, Language, and Exercise. Two CCSI Staff leaders guide the group activities built around a theme to help stimulate blood flow to and through the brain, reinforcing neglected neural pathways. Brain Train is held twice a month, with no cost to the participants other than devoting some time to have fun, meet with other like-minded folks, and reap the benefits of gentle guidance through various puzzles, trivia, chair exercises, and bingo. Each session is different and yes, you can win prizes during the bingo games!
Evelyn called Judy back. “I’ll try it,” she committed.
Judy was elated and they both attended the Brain Train together. While driving home they discussed what they liked most. They both agreed that bingo with exercises between games was a creative way to get people like them to exercise. They felt the other activities weren’t as fun but were definitely making them think more—especially the “Mad Gabs.”
Evelyn actually found that the next day she felt a little more energy. She agreed to go again the next time Judy called and discovered she was really looking forward to it. She was enjoying being out with her friend again and meeting new people. Evelyn also learned about other programs CCSI provided from the staff that lead them through the program and thought she might just sign up for another class. The Brain Train, she thought cheekily, is definitely taking her on a journey!
If you are interested in learning more about CCSI’s Reducing Social Isolation initiatives or joining our Brain Train program, call us at 309-661-6400 to find the location nearest you.
CCSI Case Coordination, LLC provides Central Point of Entry, Case Management, Caregiver Advisory, Geriatric Counseling, Healthy Aging Programs, and Senior Information Services for older adults and individuals who are disabled aged 16–59 in McLean, Livingston, DeWitt, and Shelby Counties. If you know someone in need of assistance, please have them call CCSI at 309-661-6400. Our main office is located at 3601 General Electric Road, Suite 2, Bloomington, IL 61704.