You are on page 1of 8

Introduction

2Introduction

This is an exciting time in the field of brain health! Conventional wisdom once held that
after we reach adulthood our brains stop developing and that after age 40 or 50 a person
begins an inevitable cognitive decline, resulting in problems with memory and slower
thinking. In the late 1990s, however, scientists discovered that our brains can produce
new cells as well as have a lifelong ability to grow and change in response to learning.
They coined the term neuroplasticity for this phenomenon, and it means that all of us have
the ability to change our brains for the better, whether we are healthy or have a memory
loss disorder. This was a groundbreaking discovery and changed the way we think
about aging. We now understand that we are not just stuck with the brain we havewe
can grow and change it for the better! We can increase our response time, accuracy, and
recalland even improve memorywith targeted brain fitness activities, as well as lifestyles that include physical exercise and healthy diets.
However, neuroplasticity does not just happen overnight. Like all things that are
good for you, changing your brain for the better takes some effort. That is how the activities in this book can help. They are designed to exercise many areas of cognition, such as
memory, attention, focus, visualspatial processing, and sequencing. The activities are not
easy; just as with physical exercise, you have to exert some effort to gain the benefits. The
activities are fun and interesting and provide some level of challenge.
When choosing sections for this book, the authors thought carefully about how each
section relates to brain health and how the activities could be used to expand thinking in
each area as well as engage the users.
Warm Ups: These activities are important because they help ease a person into doing
brain exercise. Some people are nervous about trying something new or are concerned
that they may do poorly on an activity. The warm ups are designed with success in mind
and help to get a person comfortable with and excited about doing the activities.
Sharpening Your Senses: This section is a perfect way to expose participants to different
ways of using the senses in everyday life. As a person gets older, some senses become less
sharp and we tend to be set in our ways with the things that we like to eat, smell, see, and
so forth. This section will stimulate each of the senses through discussion, experiential
activities, and reminiscence.
Language: A common complaint among older adults is the tip of the tongue phenomenon. This section is full of a variety of activities designed to spur recall of vocabulary and
use of less-common words. One of the best ways to combat tip of the tongue challenges
is by continually speaking, using a variety words, and socializing with others. This section
is great to share with a friend!
Geography: Many older adults have spent time traveling. This section is excellent for
spurring recall of travel experiences from long-term memory. In addition, the activities
that involve navigating maps and determining distance or area are excellent for exercising
the parts of the brain involved in visual-spatial reasoning.
Creativity: Being creative forces our brains to think outside the box in terms of forming
ideas and solving problems. Yet, as we grow older most of us have less opportunity to
take part in creative activities. This section offers a variety of creative exercises that are
new and unique.
History and Culture: This section is an excellent way to draw on participants long-term
memories and promote discussion. The activities and questions will help participants to
recall details about historical events, family memories, and cultural celebrations.

Brain Flexers

Logic and Sequencing: Problem solving is one aspect of thinking that makes us uniquely
human. The activities in this section are excellent brain flexers by providing opportunities
to figure out the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a variety of scenarios.
Music: Music is very closely tied to memory. In fact, many studies have shown the value
of music in helping individuals to recall details of events that were previously thought
to have been forgotten. Discussing music, sharing memories, and taking part in musical
activities stimulates long-term memory and promotes socialization and camaraderie with
others.

Fun with Compound Words


Practicing compound words is a great way to flex the brain. In the list below, think of a word
for the center that would create two compound words. The first one is done for you. Can
you think of more compound words that are not on the list?
1. door

bell
______________________________

hop

2. shower

______________________________

stone

3. lamp

______________________________

man

4. strong

______________________________

band

5. grave

______________________________

work

6. under

______________________________

man

7. year

______________________________

worm

8. drug

______________________________

front

9. lee

______________________________

ward

10. for

______________________________

fall

11. master

______________________________

meal

12. lay

______________________________

come

13. box

______________________________

port

14. leader

______________________________

wreck

15. story

______________________________

room

16. under

______________________________

melon

17. thread

______________________________

foot

18. ever

______________________________

house

Brain Flexers, by Einberger & Sellick. Copyright 2015 by Health Professions Press, Inc.

55

Fun with Compound Words ANSWER SHEET


1. door

bell hop

2. shower

cap stone

3. lamp

post man

4. strong

arm band

5. grave

yard

6. under

line man

7. year

book worm

8. drug

store front

9. lee

way ward

10. fort

night fall

12. lay

out come

13. box

car port

14. leader

ship wreck

15. story

board room

16. under

water melon

17. thread

bare foot

18. ever

green house

work

GUIDE: Ask participants to list a compound word for each letter of the alphabet. Do any of the words have other
endings that would make another compound word? Do some of the words have two or three endings? If participants are having trouble figuring out some of the answers, you can help by giving them the first letter of the answer.
56

Brain Flexers, by Einberger & Sellick. Copyright 2015 by Health Professions Press, Inc.

Which Doesnt Belong?


One item doesnt belong in each of these lists. Look carefully, and circle the one that
doesnt fit. These may take careful thinking. Look for letter patterns, size, shape, or other ways
that they may relate.
1. blouse

sweater

polo

scarf

smock

2. ship

soap

cork

coral

gasoline

3. centimeter

pound

mile

millimeter

inch

4. mouse

zebra

flag

highway

skunk

5. apple

icicle

elephant

orange

lettuce

6. Rhode Island

Maine

Colorado

New Hampshire

Maryland

7. arrowhead

traffic cone

ice cream cone

pyramid

stop sign

8. octopus

pool

loose

Google

moose

9. frigid

cold

moderate

freezing

blustery

10. touch

jump

see

11. commission

millennium

settee

attention

committee

12. biologist

zoologist

chemist

architect

botanist

taste

Brain Flexers, by Einberger & Sellick. Copyright 2015 by Health Professions Press, Inc.

smell

hear

181

Which Doesnt Belong? ANSWER SHEET


1. blouse
sweater
Scarf (the others are types of shirts)

polo

scarf

smock

2. ship
soap
Coral (the others all float)

cork

coral

gasoline

3. centimeter
pound
mile
Pound (the others are units of measure)

millimeter

inch

4. mouse
zebra
Mouse (the others all have stripes)

highway

skunk

5. apple
icicle
elephant
Lettuce (the others begin with a vowel)

orange

lettuce

6. Rhode Island
Maine
Colorado
Colorado (the others are along the East Coast)

New Hampshire

Maryland

7. arrowhead
traffic cone
ice cream cone
Stop sign (the others are triangular in shape)

pyramid

stop sign

8. octopus
pool
loose
Octopus (the others have a double o)

Google

moose

9. frigid
cold
moderate
Moderate (the others describe winter temperatures)

freezing

blustery

10. touch
jump
Jump (the others are senses)

flag

see

taste

smell

hear

11. commission
millennium
settee
Attention (the others have two sets of double letters)

attention

committee

12. biologist
zoologist
chemist
Architect (the others are types of scientists)

architect

botanist

GUIDE: This would be a good activity to have participants do together in pairs. Tell them to put on their creative
thinking caps to try to determine how each item that doesnt belong in the set is different from the other items.
Thinking through a variety of reasons why each might not belong uses flexible thinking skills, which can help to
improve problem solving, increase creativity, and encourage openmindedness. How did they determine which
item doesnt belong?
182

Brain Flexers, by Einberger & Sellick. Copyright 2015 by Health Professions Press, Inc.