McLean’s SHAPE Course Promotes Healthy Brain Aging for Seniors

March 5, 2018

Starting in late April, the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at McLean Hospital will begin offering six-week courses to help older adults and their adult children find ways to age successfully and promote healthy brain function. Called “Successful Healthy Aging: Prevention and Education” (SHAPE), the course teaches how lifestyle choices, nutrition, medical management, exercise, stress management, and cognitive strategies can support brain health.

According to SHAPE Program Director Julie Brody Magid, PsyD, who serves as clinical director of McLean’s Memory Disorders Assessment Clinic in the Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Services, “the SHAPE program is designed to give individuals knowledge so that they can minimize risk and improve the likelihood of healthy aging.”

To do this, McLean clinicians will teach SHAPE participants the distinction between normal aging and dementia; review strategies designed to address common cognitive-related issues, such as word-finding problems (struggling to find the right words), misplacing personal items, and trouble recalling important appointments and tasks; and show how technology can be used to monitor cognitive-related conditions or stimulate the brain through mental exercises. The course will also present techniques for managing coexisting medical conditions and provide recommendations on diet/nutrition, exercise, and stress management to support brain, heart, and cognitive health.

Brent P. Forester, MD, MSc, chief of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, said the course was created “to meet the public demand for information regarding Alzheimer’s disease and other mental health issues affecting the aging population.” He pointed out that “the first Baby Boomers turned 65 years old in 2011, and, therefore, we expect to see a dramatic rise in rates for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in the coming years.” This rise, he explained, “will have a dramatic financial impact on the U.S. health care system and place a tremendous burden on patients, caregivers, and families.”

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SHAPE was designed to address these issues. “We’re motivated to educate individuals about proactive steps we can all take to keep our brains healthy with aging and reduce our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” said Forester. “The SHAPE course will also focus on the assessment and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common neurocognitive disorder, and the importance of addressing the medical, psychiatric, and environmental factors associated with progression of memory loss.”

Using evidence-based approaches to promote brain health and cognition and drawing on McLean’s significant experience working with seniors, SHAPE will give participants “a good roadmap to help them be healthier and more efficient in their daily lives,” Brody Magid said.

The first session of the SHAPE course will begin on April 25, 2018, and run through May 30, 2018, followed by six more SHAPE courses this spring, summer, and fall. The classes will be held at McLean Hospital’s Belmont campus (South Belknap, Ground Floor). To learn more call 617.855.3267.

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