According to Gary Anaka, guest speaker at the Senior’s Conference on Sept. 27, there are no magic pills to cure Alzhimer’s. He says the best way to work to reverse Alzhimer’s is by being active, healthy and trying new things. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News

Senior’s conference dispels myths about the brain

The conference was held at the NexSource centre with guest speaker Gary Anaka.

One hundred and sixty-five seniors from Sylvan Lake, Rimbey and Bentley were at the NexSource Centre for the recent National Senior’s Day Conference.

Buses from Rimbey and Bentley were arranged to bring attendees to the all day event on Sept. 27.

Don MacKenzie, president of the Senior’s Association, said it is great to see the events planned at the Sylvan Lake Senior’s Centre have such wide reaching effects.

“As our events get bigger it seems to have a larger reach and people from other communities are interested in attending as well, which is really just wonderful,” MacKenzie said.

He said the attendees of the conference learned a lot from guest speaker Gary Anaka, a “brain-based learning facilitator”.

Anaka had two sessions at the conference, one devoted to brain wellness and another devoted to memory.

In the brain wellness session, Anaka discussed myths about the brain, which MacKenzie said was particularly enlightening.

“He told us research says medication for things like Alzheimer’s isn’t actually effective. That just astounded me,” MacKenzie said.

The audience also learned how problems like Alzheimer’s can be reversed with proper wellness if caught early enough.

According to Anaka, the key to keeping the brain in good working condition is to keep it active.

Two important things for seniors, and people of all ages, is to remember when it comes to brain wellness to move and try new things.

“Being healthy and active is so important,” said Anaka. “Physical activity helps increase the brain’s walls.”

Trying new things, whether it is learning a new task like knitting or changing the usual routine, helps keep the brain malleable and flexible.

Anaka says seniors are often the worst for getting into a routine and sticking to it without realizing how important it is to continue learning and doing.

“It doesn’t have to be through school or classes. Take up a new hobby, learn a new recipe, just try something new,” said Anaka.

“If there is one thing to take away from this conference it is to never stop learning.”

During the sessions, Anaka gave the attendees tips and tricks on how to rework and strengthen the brain.

The surprising part is these tips and tricks are actually very subtle and can be done anywhere at anytime.

One tip was to sing. Specifically, Anaka said to sing the nursery rhymes learned as children such as “Ring Around the Rosie”, “London Bridge” or “Baa Baa Black Sheep”.

Anaka also suggests looking at a detailed picture, or a store front, and answering increasing detailed questions after looking away.

He says this helps to strengthen the memory and creates new neural pathways in the brain.

MacKenzie said these subtle tips showed those in attendance “you don’t have to settle.”

“I was skeptical as first, I wasn’t sure what we were going to be doing,” said MacKenzie. “But I think we all took away that we don’t have to settle. It isn’t just we are old and that’s it for us.”

The conference was a joint effort between the Senior’s Association and the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS).

Last year the two groups applied for a grant to hold this conference. MacKenzie more events like this, and possibly more conferences, will depends on funding being in place.

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Allysa Bremner (far left), Maryan Weenink, Don MacKenzie and Gary Anaka take a moment away from the conference take a moment to pose for a photo during the lunch break of the conference. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News

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