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The Unforgettables

Memory fitness at Maris Grove enhances brain health

Created date

December 24th, 2013
two women working on a puzzle

Who are the Unforgettables, and what do they do at Grove?

They’re members of a resident-run group at the Erickson Living community in Delaware County, Pa. Each has “graduated” from Memory Fitness, Maris Grove’s 12-session course to maintain a healthy brain. 

At monthly meetings, Unforgettables members tackle brainteaser puzzles and learn other memory-enhancing tactics.

Nadine Steward, the community’s resident services coordinator who is a trained Memory Fitness instructor, teaches the course and facilitates Unforgettables meetings.

Like Maris Grove’s on-campus medical center, fitness center, and four dining venues, its memory-related programs enhance or add to Erickson Living’s comprehensive approach to wellness. 

Training the brain

Unforgettables meetings begin with puzzle solving. “Some people are better at number puzzles or Sudoku,” Steward says. “Others have more of a verbal background. The brain loves challenges. But if you get too comfortable with a particular puzzle type, it’s no longer challenging.”

Some meetings feature a guest speaker, and there’s always ample time for members to share their personal memory-related tips. 

“We do a lot of sharing,” says Peggy Cairncross. “When we discover an idea we think might help, we bring it to the group.”

A former Wilmington, Del., resident, Peggy is a Sudoku and crossword puzzle fan, “But anything new and different challenges the mind,” she says. 

Jane Flick, who spent much of her life in Drexel Hill, favors creative-writing-based puzzles. Because she might otherwise avoid challenges like Sudoku, Unforgettables is good for her. “It’s important to think outside the box,” says Jane.

Physical activity, mental activity, diet and nutrition, and stress reduction each play an important role in brain health, says Steward. “So both the Memory Fitness course and Unforgettables focus on those four areas of life.” 

Recent meetings included presentations on meditation, foods that promote brain health, and physical activities effective for people of all abilities. 

Applying the advice

Jane and Peggy have taken Unforgettables recommendations to heart. Each practices meditation and does T’ai Chi Chih, a set of 19 movements and one pose practiced in soft, flowing, moving meditation. “Both disciplines concentrate on breathing, which we take for granted but which brings oxygen to the brain,” says Jane.

For T’ai Chi Chih, the brain must simultaneously integrate multiple functions. While staying aware of their breathing, practitioners also transition through specific movements and do so at a slow, steady pace.

“Tai chi is also meditation,” says Peggy. “Once you’ve mastered it and can do it smoothly and gradually, there’s a comforting ease that’s very calming. It also helps your balance.”

Jane prefers to do her meditation and tai chi in a group setting. Peggy is happier at home in her two-bedroom, two-bath, Kingston apartment home with balcony. “I grab onto every (wellness opportunity) offered at Maris Grove,” she says. “Then I incorporate it into my individual lifestyle.”

As a result, she works newspaper puzzles and does tai chi each morning, keeps an eye on her nutrition, and walks every day. 

If it’s cold and rainy, she walks inside because every campus building is connected to the next. That makes Maris Grove’s lifestyle not only carefree but weatherproof.