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Thanks for the memory

December 29, 2008

Teaching a wide range of older adults brings me face to face with many different ailments and health issues.  One that I really had to come to terms with as a teacher was dementia.  The first time I had an older participant say to me “are  you the teacher?” after having her in class a few times took me by surprise.   She had, in all the classes, been one of the more attentive and capable participants. 

I was told by the staff that this is farily typical of dementia patients.  They lose their memory,  and may not verbally follow,  however they are very good at mimicing movements.  I was not unfamiliar with the disease, I was new to teaching at that time and it took me by surprise how “normal” the dementia did not keep them from being active participants.

I had been taught that Tai Chi, Qigong and movement programs based on their principals were good for building memory.  Form seeing the seniors with dementia in class, I began to feel that  concentration and  focus needed to participate could be mentally beneficial as well as physically.

I came across this site which supports the idea to some extent.  My personal observations, at a minimum,  show that,  slow, highly focused, repetitive and patterned exercises have physical and mental benefits that warrant further study.

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