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UCLA and Watermark Retirement Communities Introduce Innovative BrainCafé℠ Memory Program Nationally

November 15 2023
People putting puzzles together.
The BrainCafé℠ program, a collaboration between Watermark Retirement Communities and the UCLA Longevity Center, launched this fall at 54 of Watermark’s Independent Living communities to teach participants memory-enhancing techniques, as well as the basics of memory and how it works.

The program is the university’s biggest collaboration to reach seniors in residential communities and senior centers across the country. The UCLA-Watermark relationship began when Watermark Retirement Communities Chairman David Freshwater approached the university at about the time that The Watermark at Westwood Village was about to open. With UCLA just around the corner, and their Longevity Center’s interest in furthering geriatric care, the partnership was born.

The UCLA Longevity Center customized its award-winning and evidence-based memory training course specifically for Watermark. Through a licensing agreement, the UCLA Longevity Center certifies Watermark associates at communities nationally to conduct the memory course. According to Dr. Linda Ercoli, interim director of the UCLA Longevity Center, Watermark is the largest organization that the Center has worked with to access a national group of seniors for the program.  

In eight, one-hour, weekly sessions, BrainCafé, provides activities and instruction based on long-standing memory research, specifically the use of mnemonic techniques like songs, poems, patterns, and word association to assist with recall.  The program instructs students on several successful, evidence-based memory techniques, including paying attention to what one wants to remember, making associations by connecting related things, words, and visualizing doing an activity in the future.

BrainCafé’s curriculum takes into account different learning styles and, as such, lessons and activities include a variety of approaches to best suit the needs of any given student.

The course has been an eye-opener for many Watermark residents. They say they’ve added tools that they can use as they get older, and found other benefits, too. Participants shared that in addition to learning memory skill techniques, they’ve acquired a better understanding of their own individual learning styles and benefited from opportunities for socialization with other students.
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