We all know that a healthy lifestyle is important for reducing our risk of dementia and many other chronic diseases. But did you know that it’s equally important for people who already have a diagnosis of dementia?
Research shows that lifestyle choices such as healthy eating, staying social, challenging your brain and being physically active can improve quality of life, may help to slow the progression of the disease and can improve your capacity to cope with some of the challenges of the disease.
That’s the goal of the Alzheimer Society’s Minds in Motion® program, a physical activity and cognitive stimulation program for people in the early to middle stages of dementia and their care partners.
Throughout the eight-week program, participants are led through a series of simple exercises that focus on flexibility, strength, and balance, with some fun and challenging activities thrown in such as Zumba or dancing. Brain games, trivia, visual arts, creative storytelling and a host of other activities make up the cognitive portion of the program.
For people with dementia, the benefits of Minds in Motion are many: improved balance and mobility, sharpened mental functioning, increased confidence and a sense of social inclusion. For care partners, it’s an opportunity to focus on their own health and well-being, all while having fun with the person they care for.
But ask anyone who attends, and they’ll tell you that what really makes Minds in Motion special is something else: the connections.
For two hours a week, dementia is left at the door and the focus is entirely on the people behind the disease. Minds in Motion becomes a safe space full of laughter and sharing.
Everyone comes together as strangers, but many leave as friends. From week to week, group members get to know each other and relationships grow. Casual conversations occur during the coffee break, where participants share stories and lean on each other for support. They no longer feel alone in their journey. And at the end of the eight weeks, many exchange contact information so they can stay in touch and meet for lunch or coffee.
Some people call Minds in Motion a family, and that’s exactly what it feels like. It’s as much about taking care of our bodies and brains as it is about nourishing our souls.
To learn more about Minds in Motion and other programs in your community, contact your local Alzheimer Society.