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Parsons Presbyterian Manor emphasizes intellectual health in ‘everything we do’

Society tells two stories about how aging affects the brain. We praise the wisdom of older adults accrued through decades of life experience. At the same time, we accept that cognitive decline is inevitable in our older years.

Increasingly, scientific research supports the first story and casts doubt on the latter.

“While it’s tempting to focus on the flaws in older brains, that inducement overlooks how capable they’ve become,” writes Barbara Strauch for the New York Times. “Over the past several years, scientists have looked deeper into how brains age and confirmed that they continue to develop through and beyond middle age.”

That consistent development leads to the kind of insight younger people lack. Staff at Parsons Presbyterian Manor know this very well. Over and over, staff members talk about how blessed they feel to benefit from residents’ wisdom.

“The brain is plastic and continues to change, not in getting bigger but allowing for greater complexity and deeper understanding,” says Kathleen Taylor, a professor at St. Mary’s College of California, who has studied ways to teach adults effectively.

That doesn’t mean that cognition remains the same throughout a lifetime. Taylor acknowledges that adult brains may not learn as fast as younger ones — the tradeoff for the wisdom we acquire with age.

Fortunately, Parsons Presbyterian Manor attends to the intellectual health of residents as part of our overall focus on wellness. Just as moderate exercise benefits physical health and regular contact with loved ones supports social health, there are many opportunities to benefit cognitive function. These include engaging with new ideas and being involved in community.

Taylor says that simply learning new facts isn’t enough. If you really want to stimulate the brain, you need to “bump up against” new ideas. The library at Parsons Presbyterian Manor is the perfect place to challenge your brain. The first-floor library is open to all residents and includes a selection of large print books.

The life enrichment staff offers a wide variety of activities, which give residents opportunities to be in community with each other. These include bingo, singing, Bible study, and crafts.

The community’s daily newsletter, the Manor Bee, keeps residents abreast of everything that is going on. The regular schedule provides a routine that gives residents plenty of choices, says Becky Nash, life enrichment director.

“We feel that all our interactions and activities benefit our resident’s intellectual health,” Becky said. “Everything we do stimulates their minds in one way or another.”

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