Southfield groups offer virtual brain health lecture for seniors

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (March 25, 2021) – Local seniors are invited to take place in a monthly virtual lecture administered by Mind University.

“Gray Matters: Laughter and Brain Health” was the title of the March 17 free virtual lecture aimed at helping seniors find the brighter side of life by exploring the benefits of laughter in the brain, particularly during these stressful times.

Every month there is a different Gray Matters presentation centered around brain health, with a different specialist leading the lecture each time.

Mind University is a joint effort of JVS Human Services and Jewish Family Service. The program provides seniors with activities and programs to keep their brains healthy, especially during a pandemic that has caused many seniors to isolate from friends and family.

The special presenter at the March edition of the lecture was Dr. Linda Keilman, an associate professor, gerontology nurse practitioner and gerontology content expert for Michigan State University’s College of Nursing.

“My focus is helping older adults to live the best life they can every day until the last day,” Keilman said. “For a lot of people, as we age, we develop chronic conditions. For some, that can be dispiriting. We don’t plan on these things, especially when people are looking towards retirement. Sometimes it’s easy for older people to become discouraged, depressed and more anxious. I’m not a big proponent of medicine solves everything. Laughter is the best medicine.”

Throughout the pandemic, social distancing turned into social isolation for a lot of seniors and other adults. Seniors became those most at risk from the virus and had to take the necessary safety precautions.

“The brain is our computer. It controls everything,” Keilman said. “There’s so many great things in the brain with endorphins, neurotransmitters and lots of different chemicals that naturally create different states in us. When we laugh, the neurotransmitter endorphins are released and they actually can decrease anxiety, depression, pain — improve self-esteem, boost our immune system and regulate our appetite.”

Keilman encouraged seniors to use technology if they have access to it. Watching funny videos on YouTube or talking with loved ones over the phone were two pieces of advice. Keilman said seniors should think about things they can do to release endorphins in the brain: watching funny TV shows or films, listening to comedians, reading newspaper comics or cartoon books, or even reading amusing greeting cards at a store. The endorphins work on the opioid receptors in the brain. The more opioid receptors in the brain, the more powerful the effect of laughter.

JVS Director of Senior Adult Services Debi Banooni is also a strong proponent of using technology to improve brain health.

“I would say get whatever support you can in terms of technology, because it is very important to continue to see other people,” she said. “I would say set a varied schedule that includes physical movement. Conversations with other people can help, whether it’s over the phone or a Zoom call. Thinking of the right word and responding to conversation is very good for you. As isolated as we have to be, there are ways for us to still be together and take care of ourselves.”

Those interested in attending the next lecture should email or call (248) 788-MIND.