Q: My mom is 84 and going into an assisted-living community. They have bingo nights, movies and piano recitals, but that doesn't seem like enough activity. What can I do to make sure she doesn't fold up her tent? — Adele, M., Montreal
A: Time to get her in on the craze sweeping retirement communities all over North America: exer-games! If she walks in there with Nintendo's Wii or Xbox's Kinect Sports, she'll be more popular than Frank Sinatra at the Sands Hotel!
Interactive video bowling leagues in retirement communities are huge, with tournaments and even inter-community rivalries. And there are get-up-and-get-moving programs for everything from yoga to golf, skiing, soccer — even curling.
For older folks who get into these games, there are a lot of benefits — physical, mental and social! A couple of years ago, we told you that, as you advance in age, video games can help keep your brain stimulated. This can prevent cognitive decline and memory and muscle (yes, muscle) loss — especially if the games challenge you to do and think about new things. And now, with added element of physical exercise, the games can help prevent or delay the onset of dementia, while improving overall brain and muscle function.
No wonder the National Science Foundation is putting $1.2 million into a four-year study of if and how video games slow cognitive decline. And the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation pledged $8.5 million to study the impact of video games on everything from Alzheimer's disease to driving skills.
But there's no reason to wait for the results. Help Mom settle into her new home and improve her mental and physical well-being with these fun and active video games.
Q: Help! I've put on 50 pounds in the past 10 years, and I see my kids (6, 8 and 10) are getting fat, too! I don't have a lot of time or money. What can we do? — Charlene, Austin, Texas
A: Like a Chevy spinning out of control on a NASCAR track, many people are working hard to stay on course — and finding that it's not easy. So, congratulations! Your question shows you want to drive your family in a safer direction, away from obesity-related diabetes, heart disease, cancer and cognitive decline.
For most of us, overeating (and making our children eat too much) results from complex emotions and disrupted biochemistry. Research reveals moms who are anxious about their economic situation (and these days, who isn't?) tend to overfeed their kids.
When they do, it disrupts healthy eating impulses; the child never knows whether he's hungry or not, and this leads to chronic overeating.
So let's look at what's on your plate and what's between your ears that contributes to your family's growing waistlines.
You know what the kids and you should eat. Real, home-cooked food: lean, tasty and green. No saturated or trans fats, no simple sugars or added syrups, no grain but 100 percent whole grains.
But anxiety makes it hard to keep up good habits. Persistent stress stimulates release of the hormone cortisol, and that activates cravings for sugary, fatty foods and fuels depression. You overeat, and you feed your kids the same unhealthy foods you crave.
How to turn off anxiety and shed excess pounds?
•Make time for family mealtimes; sit down together for 30 minutes. It soothes the soul and upgrades the diet.
•Plan menus four days in advance; you'll control less-than-healthy impulse purchases. And get the kids involved in shopping and cooking; they'll want to eat what they prepare!
•Schedule family exercise time: Walking (10,000 steps a day), playing ball, gardening ... as much as you and the kids can fit into a day. Turn off the TV and computers! Anxiety will melt away.
One week's worth of family meals and activities will transform you all, brighten your outlook and increase your feeling of self-control. When that happens, you'll shed pounds and stress.