Above: Members of JF&CS’s Brain Health Boot Camp participate in exercise sequences to music to promote brain health. It’s a fun way to exercise body and mind at the same time. Photo courtesy of JF&CS.

Today, there are more than 46 million people age 65 and up in the U.S. That number is projected to more than double by 2060. With age serving as the greatest risk factor for cognitive impairment or memory loss, Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS) launched a new program, called Brain Health Bootcamp, last year.

The first of its kind in Atlanta, the program is designed to provide a cognitive and physical exercise program to individuals who may be experiencing a decline in cognitive functioning due to MCI or early stage Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) or other Related Dementias.

Dementia and AD are often used interchangeably. They actually have very different meanings. Dementia is not a specific disease but is a general term used to describe symptoms characterized by the loss of cognitive function (memory, language skills, visual perception, problem-solving, self-management and the ability to focus and pay attention).

There are over 200 subtypes of dementia with AD being the most common form. Often, individuals will receive a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) from their physician. MCI does not necessarily lead to AD, although individuals with MCI do have a greater risk of developing AD. MCI causes a slight but noticeable decline in cognitive abilities but the decline is not severe enough to interfere with daily life. Up to 15% to 20% of people 65 and older are living with MCI.

Exercise body and brain

Research has shown that the best way to keep the brain in optimum health is to exercise both body and brain and to stay socially engaged.

These three key factors are at the core of the Brain Health Boot Camp program. The cognitive stimulation component is a full brain workout through word games and language-based exercises. The physical exercise portion includes learning breathing techniques, yoga, and fun cardio moves that require the individual to remember sequenced movements. The best part of the program is participating with a small group of other individuals facing similar challenges.

“It is rewarding to see the transformations that take place here,” said Georgia Gunter, Geriatric Care Manager at JF&CS. “Friendships are formed, and participants gain confidence and a sense of reassurance that they are not alone in their journey.”

The Brain Health Boot Camp is led by experienced professionals who specialize in the field of aging. The program is made possible in part by a grant from the Breman Foundation, Inc.

Ongoing semesters of eight weekly classes are offered from at JF&CS. Individual classes are $25 or $200 for a full semester. For more information, please visit jfcsatl.org/brainhealthbootcamp or call 770-677-9421.