Good morning, ProviderNation.
Brain fitness has gradually worked its way into our vocabulary, and for good reason. It’s common sense that we should keep our brain active and engaged, and it’s fundamentally not that different than physical exercise. Use it or lose it! But brain fitness is starting to remind me of how our society turns everything into a contest of wills—an obsession with having to accomplish something.
I’m 54, in that part of life where I can still remember what it was like to be young, but I’m also starting to figure out what getting older feels like—good and bad. (I’m personally enjoying the journey, I never could dunk anyway.) And brain fitness is now a thing for a baby boomer generation that sometimes (arrogantly) assumes it’s smarter and more sophisticated than its predecessor.
But doesn’t it feel like fun and spontaneity can get lost in the puzzle? I remember being a kid: I loved sports. Some of my fondest memories growing up were the pickup games that would spontaneously occur with my buddies in a beat-up dirt-covered baseball field, or a park full of trees that we would turn into a gridiron.
Today’s youth, and their parents, deal with club sports, Sunday and holiday games, $200 pairs of shoes, coaches driving for perfection, and impeccably manicured baseball fields that are grandiose in nature but unapproachable as a random, unplanned activity—the gates are locked and bolted shut unless you are a part of an organized, insurance-paying league.
So, instead of randomly playing baseball with your buddies in the sunshine, you’re forced to hang out inside, playing video games because the field is inaccessible. The adult-driven structures in kids’ sports compromise the sheer joy and value of spontaneity.
It’s happening again in brain fitness. I make my living selling technology that I hope will engage aging brains. But when I’m talking to potential customers and the only thing they are looking for is brain fitness, I cringe.
Can’t joy and spontaneity, on their own, be enough of an experience that a senior living community wants to offer its residents? Does it have to be another monitored contest to showcase quantifiable improvement?
So whether you’re running a senior living company or just hanging out with your aging parents on a Saturday morning, absolutely run with brain fitness activities. But run freely.
Measure your success not by the number of “reps” your resident has done, or the number of neural connections you’ve made, but by the number of smiles you’ve created, the number of personal connections you’ve help make.
That, ultimately, is more important than helping to improve the time it takes someone to complete a crossword puzzle. Just ask your mom.