Parkway Place Residents Exercise Brains as Part of Whole-Body Wellness Commitment

Health and Fitness

May 4, 2015

As the saying goes, if you don't use certain knowledge often, you're likely to forget about it. The "use it or lose it" motto also applies to brain function. As adults age, forgetfulness can begin to creep in when certain knowledge or techniques are not used regularly. Modern research shows that seniors can continue to stay on top of their extensive knowledge through the continual use of brain fitness exercises. Parkway Place, a nonprofit continuing care retirement community in Houston, has incorporated crossword puzzles, board games and other brain fitness activities into the residents' daily routines to provide opportunities for continual learning and growth. Their most popular brain fitness tool is the Dakim, a touch-screen, web-based program with specialized, scientifically researched tools for improving brain performance and preventing memory loss. This unique program consists of computer games created especially for seniors which cross-train the brain in essential areas like memory, language abilities and cognitive performance as it acts like a personal trainer for your brain. The program includes 100 unique brain exercises that are clinically proven to strengthen attention, focus and concentration while improving memory. The machine, coupled with other enriching activities offered at the community, has improved the lives of residents. It's all part of a wellness program that targets whole-body health at the community.


15-year Parkway Place resident Ray Vigneault, a retired Exxon employee, has logged more than 1,200 sessions on the Dakim. He enjoys the high-tech challenge, and he participates by doing math problems, picture recognition games and memory puzzles. After all, Vigneault has always looked forward to the challenge of puzzles, and he realizes how important it is to continue doing them as he ages. He began completing a crossword puzzle each day starting at just eight years old. As he grew up, he moved on to the more challenging New York Times crossword puzzles and competed in a national competition held by the paper annually in Stanford, Connecticut. In a field of about 200 contestants, Vigneault placed 23rd overall and now in his 80s continues to challenge himself with these types of puzzles because he enjoys them but also sees the added bonus of his cognitive function remaining consistent, rather than diminishing.


"I've always enjoyed learning and have been a lover of puzzles since I was a child," said Vigneault. "I had never used something like the Dakim before we got one at Parkway Place, but the continual challenge is what draws me to go back to the program day after day. There is a lot of variety built into the program, and it also grades you during each challenge so you know how well you're doing or how much you've improved."


The Dakim is just one of the many ways Parkway Place challenges residents to exercise their brains and incorporate wellness into every area of their lives. Programs that incorporate physical, spiritual and mental wellness are also shown to increase the brain's gray matter, which includes regions involved with muscle control and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, speech, decision making and self-control.


Parkway Place is always looking for ways to motivate and encourage the residents to stay healthy in fun, interactive ways. In the coming months, the community will be offering Tai Chi, which has been shown to improve mental and physical wellness. The meditation aspect also helps increase the brain's gray matter, similar to the brain fitness games, and the aerobic component contributes to increased flexibility, strength and balance. Combined with the other wellness activities at the community, residents are sure to maintain and even improve their health for years to come.


"We focus on the spiritual, social, intellectual and physical wellness of each of our residents, and the Dakim and other activities like games and puzzles are part of the way we help our residents exercise their brains," said Parkway Place wellness director Rachel Ramirez. "When you want to keep your body in shape you have to go to the gym and exercise, which doesn't always sound like fun, but brain fitness activities are designed to be fun and the residents seem to enjoy the challenge."