Cognitive Vitality for Jersey City Seniors
The Act Now Foundation (ANF) is dedicated to providing Senior Cognitive Vitality Education for a twofold purpose. First, to maintain and extend cognitive capabilities during later stages of life, and second, to prevent the onset and progression of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and variant forms of dementia.
Cognitive Vitality Education is focused on a balanced approach to prevent, slow, and possibly reverse mental decline due to aging. Seniors are introduced to the following lifestyle factors that are proven to have a positive impact on brain health:
- Continuous Learning
- Physical Activity
- Personal Connection
- Sense of Empowerment
Partnering with HealthierJC to Create a Culture of Cognitive Senior Wellness
In June 2019, ANF ben to conduct a series of ten (10) 60-minute group seminars for Jersey City Seniors in all five wards. ANF worked collaboratively with HealthierJC to reach as many Seniors as possible by identifying appropriate seminar locations in community settings such as senior centers, public libraries, senior living buildings, and places of worship.
ANF instructors focus on achieving these specific learning objectives:
- For 80% of the seminar attendees, increase foundational knowledge and understanding of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Increase Senior participation in memory assessment programs for early Alzheimer’s Disease detection by 30%.
- Reduce lifestyle behaviors shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and cognitive decline by 15%.
- Help 60% of the attendees establish S.M.A.R.T. goals to improve their brain health.
The format of each Cognitive Vitality seminar includes a presentation, video, and a lengthy discussion on lifestyle factors and nutrition. Instructors stressed the need to stay active and mentally stimulated through continuous learning, exercise, spirituality, and socialization. Nutrition advice, based on the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) Diet, recommends a balanced diet of whole grains, vegetables, beans, fish, and poultry – while minimizing high-fat meats, dairy, and sugar intake.
Instructors also help seniors set S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound) goals to attain and sustain Cognitive Vitality, including participation in local venues for Seniors to support one another, exchange ideas, and collectively learn more about brain health topics.
Measurable Results that Drive Change in Senior Community Behavior
ANF was successful in reaching 91 Seniors with in-person Cognitive Vitality education, exceeding their initial goal of 75 Seniors. Of those 91 Seniors who participated in the seminars:
- 82% reported an increase in knowledge about brain health, dementia
and/or cognitive decline.
- 61% felt more comfortable about participating in a baseline and/or
annual memory assessment program.
- 63% acknowledged personal goals specific to improving brain health.
These results were compiled using exit assessment questionnaires, and align with the learning objectives established upfront for each seminar.
It is also important to realize that alumnae of the Cognitive Vitality program can affect change in their community. As informed Seniors interact with their Jersey City peers, brain health learnings and behaviors are shared and organically adopted.
Case in Point: In an ANF seminar, 2 ladies from a West Side senior building expressed concern about limited access to, and inability to afford nutritious foods. Instructors suggested a “start small” dietary change – switch out coffee for unsweetened green tea which has been proven to delay cognitive decline. Six months later, these ladies were drinking green tea daily, and had convinced building management to make an assorted tea selection available in the community room. It was a simple change, but one that can improve health, keep a person on track, and encourage others to take small steps in the right direction.
Empowering Seniors to Live a Cognitively Healthy Lifestyle Despite the Pandemic
With the onset of the COVID-19 lockdowns in Jersey City, social isolation and lack of physical and mental stimulation made it challenging for Seniors to sustain a culture of mental wellness. In mid-March, ANF launched virtual support groups and pottery classes to encourage Senior social interaction and connection. ANF also took steps to address inconsistent access to affordable, healthy foods – a persistent challenge facing many low-income Seniors trying to implement Cognitive Vitality lifestyle changes.
In reality, the pandemic merely exacerbated the already existing food insecurity crisis for many Seniors across all of New Jersey, particularly with the closure of senior centers that had supplied congregate meals. While Meals on Wheels and various food banks tried to fill the void, the 2020 spike in demand simply overwhelmed these services. And the selection of food provided typically did not account for conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and declining mental acuity.
Working in conjunction with HealthierJC, ANF explored different food delivery solutions. This led to a discussion with Mom’s Meals, to form a partnership that would fill the Senior meal service gap by providing 14 days of emergency meals per person. This new program was named the Food4Life Project and became a viable success. To date, ANF has delivered over 15,000 Mom’s Meals to 1,050 individuals in Hudson county.
To qualify for Food4Life deliveries, a Jersey City Senior:
- Must reside in Hudson County, NJ
- Must be at least 60 Years or older
- Must have no access to food
If you would like to contribute to Food4Life, click here.
For more information about this HealthierJC mini-grantee, go to the Act Now Foundation website at www.actnowfoundation.org.
Also, there is a branch location in Jersey City:
Act Now Foundation – Dementia Center
830 Bergen Avenue Suite 8A
Jersey City, NJ 07306