If you search for “brain health” on the Internet, nearly 36 million results will pop up in seconds. Wyoming residents are lucky to have an alternative to the onslaught of information, and it’s coming to Sheridan. “Gray Matters: Training the Grownup Brain,” will be presented from 9 am to 1 pm Sept. 27 at the Holiday Inn in Sheridan, Wyoming.
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For Deb Fleming, there’s no better time to be curious about how the brain ages, because research in that area is starting to bring greater understanding to a topic that’s not been well understood until now. Fleming is the former director of the Wyoming Geriatric Center at the University of Wyoming.
And perhaps there’s no greater incentive than the aging of the Baby Boom generation for this research. As the largest generation of Americans age, they share concerns over what that means to them, both physically and mentally.
“We have learned how to improve cognitive ability in a very intentional way,” Fleming said. A study of nuns’ brains show that people have the ability to build up a cognitive reserve – a way to compensate for deterioration caused by aging, for example, or a stroke. “The more your brain has been developed or is robust, the better are your chances to function.”
That’s why staying connected with communities is important for people as they age, she said. “We’re learning the value of lifelong learning and social engagement.”
Fleming was one of the forces behind “Gray Matters: Exploring the Mature Mind,” a documentary filmed at the original Gray Matters workshop that was aired on Wyoming Public Television in November 2011 in conjunction with a panel discussion. That documentary recently won a regional Emmy award and a national Bronze Telly (second place).
“We know that brain health is important to our members, and not just in Wyoming,” AARP Wyoming Director Tim Summers said. For the past two years, the Gray Matters workshop has been held in conjunction with the AARP National Spelling Bee in Cheyenne, and it has generated positive feedback from spellers who attend from across the country.
“AARP surveys also tell us that brain health is on a lot of people’s minds. We’re pleased to be able to share this information with people across Wyoming no matter how old they are,” he said, noting that prior workshops have been popular enough to fill up and generate waiting lists. “Food, fitness and fun all affect brain health, and we have experts to explain how that happens.”
The workshop is free and open to the public. A “mind-full” meal is served as participants learn from experts how the brain works and ages. Due to the popularity of these workshops, registration is required by calling 1-877-926-8300.
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