Fifty seniors, ages 65 to 95, who live independently at the Beacon Hill retirement community in Lombard are doing just that. They've been trying out the Dakim BrainFitness software system first introduced to the Beacon Hill community a little more than a year ago.
Nearly 100 residents came to hear a company representative talk about the software program before it was installed, said Lea Anne Randell, the community's director of leisure services. "We have 50 registered users and people on a waiting list," she said.
Some of the residents who use the program have no problem with their memories, while others have early onset Alzheimer's disease, Randell said.Resident Lee Meyer said he and his wife, Doby, started using the software as a way to prevent future problems with memory loss and dementia.
"It's fun being on the computer, and I like the challenge of seeing how high I can score," said Meyer, 74, a retired accountant who uses the computer after he goes to his morning fitness class. "And it's generally thought that people who do puzzlelike activities, it helps exercise their brain."
Meyer uses the computer four or five times a week and does number games that include ratios and percentages, as well as math problems. He also participates in word, puzzle and story games.
"I've played for 211 days, and my scores have been pretty consistent," he said. "My average has been 92.8 percent in all the games I've played."
The company said the program features colorful graphics, large type and music on a touch screen instead of the typical mouse and keyboard. Each 20-minute session consists of activities ranging from interactive puzzles and narrated literary passages with follow-up questions, to name-that-tune challenges and word association games.
Each resident's sessions are based upon their specific cognitive abilities, and they're given scores for each activity they complete. BrainFitness exercises measure short- and long-term memory, critical thinking, visuospatial orientation, computation and language, and get more challenging each session.
"We try to encourage people to use the system a minimum of 12 times a month," said Randell. "And if we see that somebody hasn't used it, we'll call the person and encourage them to go."
Residents use the software on two computers that are located in two separate buildings at Beacon Hill. There is no charge to use the computers, and except for a few hours in the middle of the night when new software is uploaded, the computers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Meyer said he has a good time using the system.
"I just want to do everything I can to retain my mental faculties," he said. "And the games are enjoyable."
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