Friday, January 18, 2019

Wisdomseeker and Whole Brain Health

By Bixyl Shuftan

When it comes to keeping one's mind healthy, the people to go to are Whole Brain Health at Inspiration Island. I recently interviewed the head of the group,  Wisdomseeker (Lissena Resident). We met in a skybox with a few pannels and chairs over the sim. "We hold our staff meetings here," Wisdomseeker explained.

"World Brain Health really began in 2013.," she told me, "I came into Second Life fascinated by the imaginative aspect of it, but not really sure what I would do here. Then I met Gentle heron of Virtual Ability Island. She encouraged me to do a presentation on brain health for her spring 2013 conference. I did that, and also set up what is called a brain Health Fair in real-life. In real-life, it takes place in a gym and allows seniors to try out many of the activities that promote brain health. I brought it into Second Life. That is my background and training, holistic evidence-based approach to brain health and well being. So everything here comes from that beginning."

I asked about the sim's name, Inspiration Island. Wisdomseeker pointed out, "The name comes from our logo." She pointed it out in the nearby wall: Inspire, Interact, Innovate - Change. "These are the things we focus on--educating through fun and thought provoking activities." I asked about the activities. She answered, "The idea is that people can learn what they can do to have greater well being, and we give them ways to actually try out those things. We work from five pillars of well being, activities that encourage self care--good diet, sleep, exercise and stress reduction, encourage social interaction that iis positive, encourage cognitive challenge, encourage creative self expression of all kinds, and help people develop a sense of purpose. Those five based on the research. So if you look around, you can find parcels that focus on them."

"We have for example a Multiple Intelligences Experience parcel to explore your greatest kinds of abilities--have you seen it?" I answered that I had noticed it from a distance. Wisdomseeker continued, "We hold our jazz concerts Wednesdays on the music stage there. Music is one kind of intelligence. My husband is a musician (smile). We have a number of music programs. (The) 50s sock hop for instance hosted by Curei on her Floating Gallery here. The map on the welcome board--which is all over the sim--is a good way to see what we offer. A great 'Relationships in SL and Beyond' program led by Pet Karu, who is a professional counselor. We have about 30 people who create programs and activities here, island members. Darth Vondran teaches chess here as a brain game. ... We take a group photo every year. It keeps getting bigger."

"I am on the board of Nonprofit Commons here in SL, and this region is part of Rockcliffe University Estate. I have a staff that is made up of gems. Thuja Hynes is Associate Director here. Francisco Koolhoven is Media Director. His is a scripter, made the Welcome Board behind us. And Katsii Tennen is our Music Organizaer. So the four of us work closely and others participate through their programs, like Osangar and her amazing brain! I never in a million years thought I would be doing this, it just sort of grew (smile)."

Wisdomseeker went on, "We are the virtual arm of a real-life nonprofit called 'Ageless Mind Project.' ... You see, I strongly believe that virtual lives enrich our other lives. AMP has the goal of educating the public about lifestyle choices that improve brain health and well being. In real life my husband and I give workshops, often using music as brain food as the theme. Music can contribute a lot to well being, a lot of research on this. One thing we are doing now is setting up a series of challenges/quests on the sim, a structured way for people to explore. So many tell us we have so much here, they don't know where to start. We will give people badges for completing challenges. Our staff is working on that now."

Wisdomseeker mentioned one could find their calendar of events at . She went on to say they try to have events every day, "we keep adding new ones--we also try to collaborate with other groups. For instance we are hosting a tea ceremony presented by another group, a special event next week. ... One thing, everyone who comes here and likes it, tells me. We are a friendly bunch.  People feel safe here. They like the feel of the place."

I asked her, "One question coming to mind, would someone in their 40s approach brain health a little differently than someone in their 20s? What if the person was in their 60s?" Wisdomseeker answered, "One way to look at it is this:  everything you do from the time you are born to protect your brain is important - at any age what we teach here is valuable - no matter how early or late you start - having this knowledge and practicing it is the key. The underlying concepts are universal. I say this as someone who turned 80 this year. I got into this because we took care of close family members who developed dementia. Once I realized there are things people can do to have a better chance - look at the football players, for instance, I wanted people to know about it. Now if they would just requie helmets on scooters."

Another question of mine to Wisdomseeker was, "Would you say on the whole, brain health is being taken more seriously?" She answered, "Very much so now. I keep up with the research so I can see how much more there is. Especially now that we know more about the brain itself, about neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, how what you do can change your brain for the better, grow new neurons, improve memory, lots of good stuff. It's worth learning about and developing good habits around it. Second Life is important in one great way. I believe it has the power to reduce loneliness. Loneliness is connected to depression and is generally bad for brain and well being. That's why having positive relationships here is so important too, something we focus on."

I asked if they were planning anything this year that stands out. Wisdomseeker answered, "Our major focus is on giving visitors a clearer pathway to well being through our sim - so when they come here they will know more easily where to explore, according to their needs and interests. Many of our members also are planning new activities here. We are very open to having new people join us both as visitors and members, and to suggest additions and improvements."

Wisdomseeker and I parted ways. But I would return later to look around the island. And there was a lot to see, both on the ground and higher up. There are a number of places one can go to read information. But there are also games areas, such as the 3D Maze at (224/51/22) and those at Games Park at (203/55/701). One can get a list of locations here.

Addition: Whole Brain Health made this video in 2016 of the activities on Inspiration Island.

Bixyl Shuftan

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