Article excerpt

moves a memory enhancement model into the heart of the community

BrainBoost-to-go! is the 2012 Mind-Alert Award winner in the category for programs designed to enhance mental fitness for early-stage cognitiveIy impaired older adults. The ASA-MetLife Foundation MindAlert Award program recognizes innovative mental fitness programs developed by nonprofit organizations.

Program director Roberta Tracy won't take credit for the content of Bay Area Community Services (BACS) BrainBoost programs (the curriculum isn't original to BACS), but she did envision the benefits of taking such a program out of one senior center directly to those in need.

BrainBoost began through a grant from the Brookdale Foundation at the North Berkeley Senior Center. It's a program for people with early memory loss, in which 12 to 14 elders get together to support each other, learn memory strategies, take brain-teasing quizzes and work out to improve fitness.

Coming as this particular group has from a highly educated, high socioeconomic background, Tracy says she enjoys watching them "just go at each other," as fits their fiercely competitive natures. They need continuing challenges, so the program is ever evolving to meet their needs.

There's no formal assessment to get into BrainBoost, although staff may give a quick written quiz and recall exercise to ascertain where potential students fall in the memory loss spectrum. Then they can try a class for free before committing to attend the $30 sessions.

Typical classes involve writing a poem or using 10 words in a story, learning about 10 beneficial actions to take for brain health, playing a music trivia game, learning a new song, discussing a facet of music, physical fitness and a group quiz exercise between two halves of the class-a tool that encourages competition, which Tracy says is great for aging brains. The core North Berkeley program is four hours long.

Getting It to Go

"It seemed to me, as a person who's been in senior services longer than I care to admit, that we needed different versions of BrainBoost-something with more general knowledge," says Tracy about the genesis of her "to-go!" version. While pondering this, she happened upon Lloyd Wagner, a BACs adult daycare program aide with a master's in counseling psychology and organizational development, plus a doctorate in somatic psychology.

Realizing she had stumbled on a gem, Tracy enlisted Wagner to help her fill a request for a BrainBoost program at the West Oakland Senior Center. …