Los Angeles Jewish Home's Blog

Cognitive Fitness: the New Workout

Studies are proving that cognitive exercise enhances memory and reduces the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Now, new software programs are helping to keep a generation of older American minds young and fit.

At the forefront of this innovative technology is the Dakim Power Cognitive Fitness System. Currently in use at the Jewish Home, Dakim (pronounced day-kim) is a highly interactive, touch-screen computer designed to challenge, stimulate, and entertain while exercising the mind.

Ease of Use

One of Dakim's strengths is its user-friendliness. As a plug-and-play system, pre-loaded with software, access is immediate.

"It's appearance is less intimidating than a desktop computer," notes Dan Michel, CEO of Dakim, Inc. Michel invented the system to help his father, who suffered from dementia. "We worked hard not to have the unit look like a work station computer. There is no keyboard, no mouse. It's a touch-screen system that literally speaks to you."

The computer has a built-in camera which takes your picture when you first register. The very next session, it greets you by name. (Dakim even remembers birthdays.)

Once users get into their workout, a variety of interactive exercises awaits them. Dakim comes loaded with brain games, some of them designed to make the user feel like a contestant on a game show. With its Internet connection, the machine automatically downloads new exercises almost daily to keep cognitive training fresh and interesting.

Creative Programming

The secret to successful programming, says Michel, is to keep the games challenging enough to be stimulating – not too tough to discourage, nor so easy that players will be bored. The level of difficulty rises as the user becomes more proficient.

Programming is based on the latest research into cognitive science and the emerging field of brain fitness. Chief scientific advisor on the project is Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences, and Director of the UCLA Center on Aging.

Each Dakim session takes about 20 minutes to complete, and every session works all six cognitive domains. These include short-term memory, long-term memory, language, calculation, visuospatial orientation, and critical thinking. But we haven't even mentioned the most important part.

It's a Lot of Fun!

In one short-term memory game, you view movie clips from the 30s and 40s. Then you are asked to remember things like where a particular scene took place, or what the dialogue was about. Users get hooked, and keep coming back for more.

"It's fun, self-directing, and exciting," says Jewish Home CEO-President, Molly Forrest, who took Dakim for a test drive and had a ball. Best of all, users are independent. "You don't need anyone looking over your shoulder to talk you through the program."

Encouraging seniors to move aggressively into the information age is a priority at the Jewish Home. "It makes sense for myriad reasons," Forrest notes. "Technology is opening the door for all of us to engage our minds, improve our memory, and reach out to the world."

Research confirms that regular interaction with programs like Dakim are more than just entertaining. The Bronx Aging Study, conducted by the Department of Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that seniors who regularly engage in mentally stimulating activities can significantly reduce their risk of dementia.

"Cognitive fitness is an essential element of a healthy lifestyle," notes Forrest. "It can improve our health and preserve our independence as we age."

For an online introduction to the Dakim system, and additional information on the benefits of cognitive fitness for seniors, visit www.dakim.com.

Jeanette MednickKathleen Doheny is a Los Angeles-based journalist who also writes for WebMD.com, healthday.com, Weight Watchers, the Los Angeles Times and other publications.

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