Winter Park Health Foundation Approves Five ‘Boost Your Brain’ Grants Totaling $105,000

The Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) has launched the second phase of its Boost Your Brain Initiative by awarding five grants for community programs designed to enhance the brain health of older adults. The grants, approved by the Foundation’s Older Adults Work Group, totaled just over $105,000. 

Boost Your Brain is an initiative focused on well elders in the communities of Eatonville, Maitland and Winter Park. It is designed to help them lead a brain-healthy lifestyle through regular participation in physical activity, nutrition, socialization, spirituality and mental stimulation.

All five of these elements are important to maintaining good brain health, according to Dr. Paul Nussbaum, Clinical Neuropsychologist, Adjunct Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine, who the WPHF in April invited to Winter Park to help launch the initiative.

According to Dr. Nussbaum, recent research has shown that the brain can generate new cells and has “neural plasticity,” that is, it is ever changing, and reorganizing. To be healthy and continue growing, brains need to be enriched and challenged throughout life, he said.

“It is our hope that the programs funded through the Boost Your Brain initiative will not only help educate older adults on the positive effect lifestyle changes can have on maintaining cognitive health, but they will be inspired to take action and change behaviors,” said Diana Silvey, WPHF Program Director.   

This all contributes to meeting a Foundation goal to help the community’s older adults become the healthiest—mentally and physically—possible.

Boost Your Brain grant awards were made to the following organizations: 

Alzheimer’s Association – Central Florida Chapter

Under this program, the Alzheimer’s Association will present its “Maintain Your Brain” workshop as an introduction to brain health for residents in Eatonville, Maitland and Winter Park.  Following the workshop, Brain Health Clubs will be created with technical assistance from the Alzheimer’s Association and the Winter Park Public Library’s Lifelong Learning Institute (WPPL).  Up to ten clubs, housed primarily at faith-based organizations, will define their own mission and goals, recruit members, identify brain health activities and help members set and reach goals.  The WPPL will provide free memberships to club members until clubs establish their own programs.

Crosby YMCA Wellness Center

The YMCA program combines existing services with new ones to offer a total Boost Your Brain package to Crosby YMCA members.  Members will receive a “Passport to Brain Health” and will be able to earn passport stamps by participating in brain health activities. Some of the new planned activities include a movement/balance aquatics class, quarterly brain health luncheons, the creation of a brain health cookbook, periodic history trips to local cities/towns, and the development of a variety of clubs such as gardening, knitting, bridge, etc.  Winter Park Presbyterian Church will provide in-kind spiritual journaling seminars. 

Orlando Health

The “50+ Boost Your Brain Camp” is a collaborative effort between Orlando Health, the Town of Eatonville and Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.  The program, much of which will take place at the Denton Johnson Community Center in Eatonville, will offer three five-week “camps” with classes and activities three days per week. One camp day will focus on mental stimulation through Dr. Gary Small’s Memory Training program, basic Spanish, or sign language classes. A second day will address physical activity through a water aerobics class, guided walking path instruction, chair yoga or a “Sit to be Fit” class.  The third day of camp each week will alternate the focus between spirituality, nutrition and socialization. 

Seniors First

This program, while focused initially on the Winter Park Calvary Towers Neighborhood Lunch Site, could potentially be replicated at congregate meal sites throughout Orange County. Seniors First received funds to hire a part-time coordinator to create a Boost Your Brain program to be piloted at the Calvary Towers site. The individual in this short-term, grant-funded position will identify and coordinate community resources, including nutritionists, physicians, ballroom dancers, and others who could educate seniors on brain healthy activities. The program also will include incentives for individual progress.     

Warner Chapel Outreach Ministries

Warner Chapel, located in West Winter Park, currently operates a senior health and wellness program as part of its outreach ministries.  The program, O.W.L.S (Older Wiser Leading Seniors) also has a strong relationship with the City of Winter Park and the older adult program that meets regularly at the Winter Park Community Center.  Funds from the Boost Your Brain program will allow participants from both programs to enhance their lives through the addition of nutrition education, Sit and Be Fit exercise, and a senior health fair.