Fun good for the mind; Cedars of Austin brings Jeopardy to Mower County Senior Center

Published 7:01 am Friday, January 26, 2018

Surely nobody in the Mower County Senior Center dining room would have ever thought Dagwood — the frenetic husband in the classic comic strip “Blondie” — would ever be considered good for your health.

It’s all about context. In this moment, he was the answer to a Jeopardy question.

Cedars of Austin marked National Activities Professionals Week by bringing  the game  to the center. Every Thursday,  Cedars staff lead a brain game, such as Jeopardy,  for residents at the senior living community.  The engaging games are a kind of therapeutic recreation that helps with memory.

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There are other games, but Jeopardy seems to be far and away the favorite, said Lisa Nelson, director of sales and marketing at the Cedars.

On stage playing the roles of game show host and the questions board were Cathy Ehley and Sue Barns. Ehley filled the role of Alex Trebek while Barns ran the not always cooperative game board, which was more of a tapestry with hearts attached by stubborn velcro.

Ehley directs recreation and wellness as well as memory care. She has been at The Cedars since 2005. Her mission is to “enrich the lives of our residents through meaningful activities,” says her biography on  The Cedars website.

Sue Barns, a memory care activity and recreation assistant from Cedars of Austin points out a table of seniors to choose a category Wednesday during a game of Jeopardy at the Mower County Senior Center.
Christopher Baldus/

Barns has been working with seniors for about three decades. She is a memory care activity and recreation assistant.

The National Institute on Aging advises seniors to “stay involved in activities that can help both the mind and body to stay healthy and deal with changes in memory and mental skills.”

National Activity Professionals Week, Jan. 21-17, is intended to thank, encourage and empower people doing the work Ehley and Barnes engage in.

The National Association of Activity Professionals defines the job this way: “Quality of life is something that we all seek at every age and stage of life. Residents in long term care facilities come with their personal history, talents, potential needs and dreams.

“The activity professional is the one who treasures each resident’s history, respects their needs, and enables their potential and dreams to be recognized. Thus the activity professional is the key to providing quality of life experiences for long term care residents.”

The Cedars memory care program includes “specialized care and unique programming designed specifically to recognize each resident’s different preferences and needs,” says The Cedars website.

“The Cedars, we place a priority on helping those affected by memory loss improve their quality of life — for both residents and loved ones,” is says. “We believe there is always something that can be done to improve the comfort and increase enjoyment and serenity for someone with memory loss as well as their family.