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WMU SCOPE program could help slow down brain related issues for the elderly

Philip Repp credits Scope Program with helping him keep a youthful mind.jpg
Philip Repp, who credits the SCOPE Program with helping him keep a youthful mind, is currently taking his second Art course at WMU. (WWMT/Tarvarious Haywood)

Life can change quickly for Americans in their 60s. Some begin to have memory loss or start to slow down mentally, but a university in West Michigan is helping combat the mental slow down.

Western Michigan University offers the Senior Citizens' Opportunity Program in Education, or SCOPE, program that helps seniors learn new things to keep the mind active.

“If you quit learning and quit trying to learn the things around your life can start getting pretty dull and pretty boring,” said Philip Repp, who credits the SCOPE Program with helping him keep a youthful mind

According to the National Institute of Aging, more than 5 million Americans suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The causes can vary. Doctors say there are several signs to look out for a person who might have Alzheimer's.

There are ways to slow down the process and people, like 66-year-old Repp, are taking advantage of SCOPE. The program allows people 62-years-old and older to take a college courses for free.

“I was trained as an artist and went into information technology and became an administrator in higher-ed, and what happens you lose sight of what's most important to you. What the SCOPE program did for me is allowed me to get back into that,” Repp said.

Repp said it is his second year taking an art course and it is an opportunity for him to fulfill a dream.

The goal of the SCOPE program is to help people learn what they want.

“The folks who retire and become more reclusive are the ones that we see decline the fastest,” said Joseph Wheeler, a neuro-psychologist for Bronson.

Wheeler said it's a much bigger picture than just offering classes, because higher education has benefits for the elderly.

Taking a college course allows the elderly to be more social.

He said anyone 65-years-old and older is susceptible for brain related problems.

As we age our brains start to shrink and lose volume.

“So, one thing about getting older people often reduce their activity level, physical activity levels, and cognitive activity levels and we know that it can increase risk for these types of diseases.” said Wheeler.

He said there is no way to stop it, but there are ways to slow it down and such as learning new things.

“Taking college class also forces you to engage with other people and so you are also increase social activity. You will often talk about the different concepts in the classroom. So, you are essentially getting two things for the price of one,” said Wheeler

Repp said for those who want to keep a youthful mind, take a class.

“Now we are going to visit more museums, because now I am curious about things in particular. Things I want to see. It just makes life a lot more interesting,” said Repp.

Western Michigan University officials said they are going to continue to keep the door of learning open for elders. Enrollment can be done online.