Solvere Living uses Fit Minds cognitive programs to help residents increase their self-confidence, social engagement and mental acuity.
Earlier this year, Solvere Living, a senior living and active adult management company, partnered with FitMinds, a technology-based cognitive stimulation solution, to offer programs to residents at its assisted living and memory care communities. Fit Minds is an effective non-pharmacological treatment option for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Two Solvere Salus coaches and one Valeo director, all three are resident engagement directors, were asked how it’s helping residents. Fit Minds stimulates cognitive ability, however, the three directors commented there are several other benefits the residents are experiencing.
“Although Fit Minds was created mainly for people with Alzheimer’s and related diseases, we realize the programs could benefit all residents regardless of cognitive impairment – almost like cross-training the brain to be stronger,” said Kristin Kutac Ward, CEO, Solutions Advisors Group and Solvere Living.
How does Fit Minds Work?
The classes are hosted once or twice a week and there are about six regular participants in each class. The hour-long class has 7 or 8 exercises that are meant to stimulate certain areas of a person’s brain. The exercises can focus on language, word block puzzles, visual and spatial orientation, math computation, memory and critical thinking skills. Each week the exercises vary, and residents are given packets to complete with a discussion on some exercises.
“I start my class with a breathing or light stretching exercise on Friday morning. The deep breathing and slow movement help to waken up the brain,” said Carli Koontz, Salus assisted living coach, at The Monarch at Richardson in Texas. “We then start off with the language exercise and the group shouts out the answers one by one. A computation exercise might be on math patterns, subtracting three or adding five. We take a few minutes, give residents time to work on it individually, then regroup to talk about their answers. We want everyone to be on the same page and know what we’re trying to achieve.”
Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence
Studies have shown that self-esteem and confidence tend to peak at age 60, stays constant and then start to decline after the age of 70. Maintaining self-esteem, especially in older adults is important because it is linked to adaptation, well-being, life satisfaction and health. The first benefit noted by all three directors is increased self-esteem and confidence with participants.
Sharon Adan, the Valeo memory care director and a Fit Minds certified coach at Presidential Place in Hollywood, Florida asked the group the first time they met what they thought of Fit Minds. Did they want to continue with it and how did they feel after taking the first class. One woman remarked she felt confident and good about herself. “It gives them a great feeling of success. We’re giving them something to enhance their abilities, to hold on to what they have and it’s all positive. We don’t point out when someone is wrong, we redirect or simplify some activities and give them the opportunity to be successful,” said Adan.
At one of the classes, the participants at The Cabana at Jensen Dunes in Florida were stumped with some math computations because they had not used that skill in a long time. “These ladies all had professional careers, and, in the beginning, they really had to focus,” said Jennifer Fontaine, the Salus assisted living coach. “Once they started to get them right, they were so thankful, and were glad they have the opportunity to be in the class.”
At the end of every class Carli Koontz asks participants to each pick an affirmation card, the one that speaks to them that day. They hold on to the card all week long and she tells them to put it somewhere so they can see it like when they’re getting dressed in the morning. “For instance, if their card reads ‘be the sunshine’ then wear something colorful that day,” said Koontz. “I absolutely love these cards.”
Social Engagement and Forming Bonds
The benefits of socialization are important as people age. Consistent social interactions help keep older people mentally, physically and emotionally fit. Blue Zones, a lifestyle brand built on the world’s longest living cultures, lists social engagement as a trait the long living cultures all have in common. Even during the pandemic, the Fit Minds’ participants are socializing and forming bonds, albeit social distancing.
Jennifer Fontaine noticed the social engagement with her group, especially one woman. “She wasn’t the type of person who liked to converse with people. At one class, she reached over to another resident and asked her if she was having a hard time with the exercise. The other resident jokingly said, ‘of course but I’m not going to give you the answer’. It’s helping all of them work together to solve the exercise, have fun and come out of their shells.”
Sharon Adan uses word association to spark conversation and memories with residents. “There are a lot of memories around food. I might say the word breakfast and get answers back like they had pancakes this morning or it reminds them of a memory they had with a family member. They talk about their lives; their different family traditions and they learn from each other.
Mentally Sharp and Continuing to Learn
One of the common misconceptions about getting older is brain power decreases with age. The key to strengthening these abilities is exercising a person’s mental faculties to combat degenerative loss. Fit Minds does exactly that.
Carli Koontz has noticed a difference in the participants, their positive outlook and understanding of the current situation. “They understand what’s going on with the pandemic, they’re asking questions and want to know about the current regulations. They’re mentally sharp.”
At Presidential Place, one of the exercises was tagging information to a place in the world, one of the more difficult exercises. At the next class, one of the participants corrected the other participants and reminded them they had learned last week where Julius Caesar lived. “They are retaining the information and it proves people with dementia can still learn,” said Sharon Adan.
Sharon Adan says “The most important thing is that we’re helping them feel successful. They enjoy doing it, it’s not a chore, we’re not giving them homework, or a task they must complete. It’s something they are engaged in and they want to get it right. They’re learning and remembering the things they have done.”
The participants at Cabana Jensen Dunes gave Jennifer Fontaine some advice. “You have to keep doing these type of exercises, be on your game because when you get to be our age, you’ll be glad you did this.”
About Solutions Advisors Group
Formed in 2009, Solutions Advisors Group is a group of companies providing comprehensive consulting and operations management expertise for the senior living and active adult sectors. With offices in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Richmond, Va., the three companies are:
About Fit Minds
Fit Minds offers an enhanced quality of life for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s through a customized, research-backed cognitive stimulation therapy program that combines human-to-human, meaningful engagement with a sophisticated cognitive improvement measurement software. The company offers three core programs: one-on-one cognitive coaching led by a Personal Trainer for the Mind™, premier group sessions led by Fit Minds certified coaches, and subscription group content led by senior living professionals. Learn more at www.fitminds.net, 813-282-8282.