Seven-part series on brain health will begin on Thursday


Interest in brain health is at an all-time high — fueled in part by the rising numbers of adults affected by Alzheimer’s disease. And Maui has a new advocate for local families who are impacted by this disease.

In September, Christine Spencer was hired as the Maui regional coordinator with the Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter. She came to the association with incredible experience working with a University of Hawaii project for grandparents raising grandchildren on Maui, and with the United Nations in New York, Italy and South Sudan.

Within weeks of beginning her current position, she coordinated an incredibly successful “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” fundraiser. All the funds raised stay in the county and directly benefit local families through workshops, care consultations and support groups — all of which are free to the public.

This year she has ambitious plans to expand her outreach and awareness efforts, one of which is to promote research-based behaviors that are demonstrated to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

With that in mind, she has teamed up with the University of Hawaii Extension to present a seven-part series on Brain Health — the first of which begins on Thursday. Because brain health is important for adults of all ages, these workshops are held during the lunch hour to accommodate both working and retired residents.

Mark your calendar for the fourth Thursday of each month (through July), noon to 1 p.m., at the Community Services Building on the UH-Maui College campus to learn, practice and set manageable brain healthy goals.

In case you aren’t able to join all seven workshops, the following schedule will help you narrow down your choices:

• Thursday: “Alzheimer’s Myth or Reality?” A lot of incorrect information is available on the Internet about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Learn about the science-news cycle, which can help separate truth from hype.

• Feb. 28: “10 Ways to Love Your Brain.” Learn about the Alzheimer’s Association’s top 10 strategies for protecting the brain and building cognitive reserve. You may be surprised at what you already do and that some small changes can make a difference for your body and brain.

• March 28: “Fuel Up Right.” Just like the body, our brains require good nutrition. But there are so many diets to choose from that sometimes it is information overload. This workshop includes hands-on activities, so come ready for learning and fun.

• April 25: “Break a Sweat.” Exercise is good not just for the heart but also the brain. And there are so many ways to begin, maintain or build an exercise schedule that is enjoyable and social (which is also good for the brain). Wear comfortable clothes and be ready to move!

• May 23: “Follow Your Heart.” Learn about markers that increase (and decrease) risk for your heart and brain and then take action!

• June 27: “Stump Yourself.” Is that crossword really helping your brain? Learn about 15 brain-bending activities that are fun and have been shown to relate to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

• July 25: “Get Some ZZZs.” The brain requires good sleep to function properly. In this class you will learn about good sleep hygiene, stress reduction and relaxation activities that can help promote good quality sleep.

Pack your lunch and join us this Thursday as we kick off the Brain Health Series. It is free, but register today so we have plenty of materials. Call the Alzheimer’s Association at (808) 591-2771, ext. 8235, or email Spencer at cespencer@alz.org. We look forward to seeing you soon!

* Heather Greenwood-Junkermeier is with the University of Hawaii Manoa Cooperative Extension, Maui Aging and Intergenerational programs. Today’s column was written jointly with Christine Spencer, Maui regional coordinator with Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter. “Aging Matters” covers topics of interest to the aging Maui community and appears on the third Sunday of each month.