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News Opinion

Importance of 'memory fitness' [Letter]

When I came to Baltimore-based Erickson Living to work as a public relations summer intern, I imagined I would enrich my professional experiences and skills but never dreamed I'd walk away with such a wealth of knowledge on memory care, memory health and memory fitness. With more than 5 million Americans now suffering from Alzheimer's disease, the timing could not have been better to help raise awareness for the Erickson Living-managed Charlestown retirement community's Memory Support Program and funds for Alzheimer's research.

As a fitness lover and former collegiate swimmer, I knew that Charlestown would be a perfect fit for the swimming campaign I envisioned. Why? Not just because of the community's state-of-the-art aquatics and fitness center but also because of its great location in Catonsville, industry-leading memory support services and professionals, active and engaged residents, as well as leaderships' interest in making the "Laps for Memory Fitness" swim-a-thon a reality.

After lots of memory support-related research and many meetings with members of Charlestown's leadership and Memory Support Committee members, the full vision for the campaign evolved quickly. The more I engaged residents, staff and memory support professionals on the topic of memory health, the more I realized the value of the campaign and how memory fitness activities can help improve overall memory health. Perhaps most intriguing to me was the extent of research now reflecting how diet and exercise can help people maintain mental vitality.

Once the recruitment of swimmers was underway, I learned first-hand just how local families have been directly impacted by loved ones having memory difficulties. I was baffled by the number of individuals who shared personal stories on the impact cognitive changes have made in the lifestyles of their parents. I was even able to recruit two Baltimore celebrities to speak at the event who had family members impacted by Alzheimer's disease. Both Debbie Phelps, mother of Michael Phelps, and former Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary were happy to come out, support the event and speak about the importance of exercising to improve overall brain health.

In the end, the event helped raise approximately $2,500 and, perhaps most importantly, raised awareness of how exercise benefits cognitive health. I walk away from this internship not only wiser in my knowledge of the public relations field but also with a greater appreciation for the value of memory-care programs and services. It's rewarding to have worked with a senior-living provider that is already prepared for the wave of baby boomers who are entering their retirement years with a passion for living active and healthy lives.

Jessie Krebs, Baltimore

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Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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