Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Brain & Key Experiences

I had an interview the other day. I did not get the job, but as I reflected on dementia, the brain and brain cells, it occurs to me that maintaining cognitive functioning is simply the other end of the spectrum of developing cognitive skills and the brain in early childhood. Keeping the cells firing, and keeping a senior's brain working is important. We can retrain the brain. Even if certain neural pathways are blocked, we can depend upon the neuropasticity of the brain to adapt. If we work it hard enough.

The Highscope Educational Research Foundation (1985) developed this framework of key experiences which provide an holistic experiences in the early years. It applies in middle and senior years, too. when designing programs for adults with dementia many possibilities exist to promote cognitive functioning.These are experiences necessary to keep develop and maintain brain cells and cognitive functioning.

  • in active learning: activities, outings, playing games and cardsactive learning

  • in using language (reading, writing, listening (receptive language), speaking (expressive language)

  • using language

  • in representing experiences, feelings, and ideas (visual and visual artsexpressive arts)

    • in artistic mediums (visual: paintpainting, draw, collage, photographs photography)

    • written format: autobiographies, create a family tree, or memory albums

    family tree

    • choosing and/or listening to music music

  •  in maintaining logical reasoning:        temporal relations        
    • classification (attributes, differences)classificationcomparing

    • seriation (comparing, arranging, ordering; i.e.,largest to small)

    • numeracy (more-less,one-to-one,counting)numeracy

    • in spatial relations (up/down, above/below, near/far)

    • in temporal relations: today, tomorrow, yesterday temporal relations

For this reason, keeping seniors brains active promotes healthy brain and bodies. Visitors have many options. Here is my post on that issue: What to bring or do?
Many senior's centres exist around the country and they have a full schedule of many varied activities. For house bound seniors, taking them out is a treat.
For those who see ads for 'cures' for dementia, check it out carefully before you risk spending valuable dollars. You lose what you don't use. Keep on reading, writing and thinking. This is all it takes.

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