October 28, 2010
The Oakland Tribune
Ginny Prior

Bob Stewart dons his headphones and logs onto the computer at Salem Lutheran Home in Oakland. A retired chemical engineer, he once took a college course from renowned chemist Linus Pauling. Now, at 83, he’s using a revolutionary software program at Salem to keep his brain sharp.

The Posit Science Brain Fitness program is proving to be one of the senior care community’s most popular offerings.

“I seem to have more energy — mentally and physically,” says Stewart, who is part of Salem’s first graduating class in brain fitness. The Posit Science software was developed by a team of neuroscientists and uses fun and engaging exercises that seniors can do at their own pace.

“The computer matches you to your cognitive skills and abilities,” says Salem’s Associate Executive Director Rachel Main. “It’s designed to give you questions where you only get about 60 percent of them right.” A sample session includes matching words with similar sounds like “bed” and “ted” and “cab” and “tab.” It’s like the old Match Game on TV, and it helps seniors with audio processing.

“What a lot of people notice as they do this program,” says Main, “is they’re able to discern conversations better.”

That includes phone calls between hearing-impaired seniors and their grandchildren — always a challenge because kids tend to mumble.

The eight-week program includes daily one-hour classroom lessons in six different disciplines, including sound recognition, auditory storytelling, matching games and practice following directions. Trained staff and brain fitness coaches help with the sessions, which are filled to capacity with a waiting list.

“It’s the only thing that I know that helps to reverse the negative aspects of aging,” says Stewart. Senior Barbara Juneau agrees. As a former educator, she sees the Posit Science program as a critical part of her life at this stage. “It gives me something to do, rather than just wilting in the changes of my old age.”

Five Brain Fitness Tips from Posit Science:

  • Go on a guided tour of a museum or other site. Afterward, write an outline of everything you remember.
  • Listen to a song with lyrics you enjoy and try to write the words down. Then sing along with the song.
  • Sit in a public place and concentrate on everything you can see without moving your eyes. Then make a list of what you’ve seen, including subjects in your peripheral vision.
  • Sharpen your brain’s neural pathways by listening to a classical composition and picking out the instruments you hear.
  • Lower your television volume and see if by concentrating you can follow the program. Matching TV volume to a conversational level helps you catch every word when you’re talking with others.