While these final summer days offer vacation time and lazy days, for many of us back at the office the quiet lull that August brings offers that magical “extra” time to get done all those things we delay doing during the busyness of the year. Often that “to do” list includes planning our programming calendar for the year ahead (we know it does here at TBH!).
With brain health at the top of adults of all ages’ minds, the demand for cognitive health programming has never been higher. A recent AARP Research poll found that American adults overwhelming place high value on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and ranked brain health second only to heart health in their quest to do so (AARP Research, 2014).
In planning programming, we are continually tasked with bringing our communities innovative, evidence-based ideas that grab their attention, educate and engage – not always easy to do! In addition, there remains a tremendous gap between what the general public thinks is brain healthy engagement and what the science actually backs. Chances are you already provide many opportunities that promote cognitive wellness – but how do you tie that to a brain health strategy and raise awareness of your community to the cognitive value of activities like exercise or social programs, which on the face may not smack of “brain health?”
One way to get started on your brain health programming for the coming year is to “think big” by planning brain health “anchor” events. These large-scale events offer structural touch points to your calendar. In addition, they bring educational and community-wide social engagement opportunities that other cognitive wellness activities on your calendar may not. Finally these “anchor” events give you the chance to showcase the brain health value of your other activities and boost awareness and participation in existing programs.
So in these quiet summer days, why not “think big” about brain health? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Active Aging Week | September 27th – October 3rd. Staying engaged and active across the physical, intellectual and social aspects of wellbeing are key to maintaining cognitive wellness. Celebrate and showcase the positive benefits of staying active at all ages by holding a community-wide event for Active Aging Week. Try something as simple as a community “get outside” event with some great outdoor activities or a brain game competition day with some familiar and some new board games. Check out the event’s website for additional materials, ideas and to register your event. This year we are happy to have collaborated with CaptionCall on their “Say Hello!” theme day event, complete with a “mini-expo” and giveaways for the day all about how hearing health matters to brain wellness.
Walk to End Alzheimer’s | Late Fall 2015. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the U.S., affecting over 5 million Americans. The “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” is the Alzheimer’s Association’s largest event, with walks in support of the organization held at varying times during the fall across the country. Gathering together to plan and participate in your local “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” offers your community the chance for social engagement, volunteering, and for those who are able a bit of physical exercise, all good for our own brains as well. This event can also be a great educational opportunity on the many ways we can engage for a brain healthy lifestyle. Start a team to participate in a local walk or plan a celebration within your own community in support of the event.
Brain Health Food Festival. Who doesn’t like a food festival? With growing evidence of the long-term brain benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the much-hyped release of Dan Buettner’s new book “The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People” this fall offers a great, well-timed opportunity to plan a fun food festival highlighting how we can all eat better for our brains. Work with your dining service or local vendors to create food stations highlighting different Mediterranean cuisines, play Buettner’s TED Talk and have a discussion about his findings, offer a station where folks can share their own recipes that feature brain boosting ingredients, and be sure to add a bit of “Opa!” to your event with some themed music and even folk dancing. The New York Times recently offered list of top tips to living a longer, healthier life based on Buettner’s work, which you can use in your planning. This can be a really fun and social event you can place anywhere in the calendar over the coming year.
Brain Awareness Week | March 16th-22nd 2016. It’s never too early to begin planning a great event to mark Brain Awareness Week. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of BAW, an annual opportunity to promote awareness and education about brain health. Hold a TBH Brain Health Fair for an engaging community event that offers hands-on opportunities to try many out-of-the-box brain boosting activities and has been shown to significantly improve participants commitment to brain healthy living; book a great speaker, or kick off a community project that offers everyone the chance to boost their brains together, such as a “community read” (with a book all can read, events around the book including perhaps a culminating event with the author) or community garden.
And one final event just for professionals – on October 15th I will be speaking about planning your community’s brain health strategy as part of the ICAA’s Virtual Summit on Cognitive Wellness. I hope you’ll join me to learn how to develop a brain health strategy that reflects your community’s wellness mission and builds on the great offerings already on your programming calendar.