Staying MindSTRONG: A Lesson From The Island of Centenarians

As country crooner, Darius Rucker sings, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

How often are you engaged with friends, family and new people and do those interactions spark lively conversation and a curiosity to learn something new?

Did you know your answer could determine the quality and length of your life?

What We Can Learn From The Island of Centenarians

In what is one of the most highly viewed Ted Talks, psychologist Susan Pinker takes you to Sardinia, a sun kissed, Italian island where something pleasantly odd is happening.

Sardinia boasts six times as many centenarians as the entire country of Italy! And it’s the only place where men live as long as women. We know what you’re thinking: Who wouldn’t live longer on a Mediterranean island of pearly-white beaches, figs, pasta and limoncello?

Actually, says Pinker, evidence shows that their centenarian lifestyle is the happy byproduct of something else. The Sardinians place an unusually high value on deep and rewarding personal relationships and face-to-face interactions.

They laugh, walk, celebrate family – and their elders.


Like the Sardinian people, at Consonus Healthcare and Marquis, we know the role healthy socialization plays in our clients’ health.

Our popular AgeSTRONG program, in our independent and assisted living facilities, promotes wellness and rehabilitation services that keep the body strong. All those aging baby boomers demand it! They rightly want to defy their age, stay mobile and vital throughout their entire life journey.

But what about the mind? How are we keeping our seniors’ minds strong?

Over the course of our AgeSTRONG program we’ve identified the need for an additional and serious focus that supports the cognitive health of those we serve –– their memories, communications, what matters most to them and that all important, socialization.

We’re going to share what we’ve learned, so you too can benefit from these insights. We call it MindSTRONG because we know that those we serve want to keep their minds strong!

The MindSTRONG program serves seniors in independent and assisted living by identifying key areas where we can improve cognitive skills through mental exercises while considering what matters most – hobbies, interests, topics – to each individual. Our individual and group activities utilize interactive and emerging technologies that make it fun to learn new ways of engagement. The goal in our “classrooms” is sharpening each person’s mental, cognitive and emotional health and improving the vitality of their entire life journey.

Our guide for this introduction to MindSTRONG is an expert well-known for her joy – and success – in innovating new programs that enrich seniors’ lives. Meet Emily Steedman, Occupational Therapist and Area Director at AgeSTRONG and Consonus Healthcare.

Q: Emily, exactly what is MindSTRONG and how is it changing the way we think about seniors and their cognitive health?
A: Right off the bat I can tell you that MindSTRONG rejects the old and harmful notion that with age we can’t learn new things, or at least learn them very well. What holds true for all of us, holds true for our seniors: when we engage in physical activity, exercise and meaningful activities and relationships, we can maintain health and vitality and stay sharp! Even someone with dementia or cognitive decline can engage with life and can learn and discover new things. Sometimes it may just be a matter of education for their caregiver on specific approaches and methods based on the senior’s ability. It is absolutely worth it to allow everyone the opportunity to have some autonomy and new life experiences.

Q: Take us inside those MindSTRONG “classrooms.” What are the seniors learning?
A: Our “classes” include, Coffee Talk, focusing on social engagement and communication skills; Brain Fitness helps the residents with problem-solving, memory and high-level thinking skills; Game Club builds sharper strategic thinking skills; Wellness Writing is a wonderful course that prompts our residents to remember, reminisce and practice creative writing skills; and Mindfulness Matters, which stimulates mental and emotional wellbeing skills.

It’s holistic, it’s fun and it’s deeply rewarding for the residents to be able to engage with one another in meaningful ways and for the families to know their loved ones’ minds are getting a workout too!

Q: The topic of cognitive health is everywhere these days. Is this sudden interest due to a rise in these diseases?
A: Three things are at play. First, 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, so we’re naturally seeing higher numbers of age-related cognitive issues.

Second, we’re also seeing a big jump in diseases like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. All of those can impact overall cognition. That’s why our AgeSTRONG program is so successful. We focus on preventative care with health fairs, vitality checklist screenings, personal fitness and occupational, physical and speech therapy.

Third, with COVID and the globalization of different jobs, we’re living apart from our seniors. We’re less involved and often less aware of how they’re doing. More seniors are isolated and less interested in interacting, learning and challenging their brains. That’s a recipe for depression and cognitive decline.

And one more reason we’re so excited about MindSTRONG!


Ready for a brain boost? Look for our upcoming blog where we’ll share three expert tips on how you can help sharpen the cognitive health of the senior in your life –– and, at the same time, strengthen your own brain power!

For more on how those happy Sardinians are aging so well, visit Blue Zones.

Learn more about Consonus Healthcare AgeSTRONG and MindSTRONG services for your community. We’re happy to answer all of your questions about keeping your community strong!