Eighteen months ago a Town Hall meeting concerning driving and dementia convened here.

Through the combined efforts of the Winnemucca Alzheimer’s Support Group, the Nevada Task Force on Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias, Nevada AARP, and the Aging and Disabilities Services Department plus local law enforcement, government officials, and concerned citizens, panelists shared insight and background information on the multiple facets of allowing those with cognitive impairment to continue to drive.

We concluded that simply taking a driver’s license away is not the solution as this leaves individuals isolated, unable to travel to meetings and appointments, and adds stress to an already stressful situation. From this the Age-Friendly Winnemucca Project was born.

Since then a group of 10-12 locals has gathered monthly to discuss improvement of transportation services, inclusiveness for all residents, examination of areas of concern for those with dementia or other impairment, and more.

Thanks to concerted determination, you will now see a space large enough for the senior bus to park downtown so that people can visit Bridge Street area stores, a concierge on the senior bus on Tuesdays to help individuals get out to, onto, and off the bus for lunch at the center, flipcharts with handy information for health and wellness opportunities, and recently being able to once again offer senior driver’s education update class through AARP which leads to a decrease in insurance fees.

Guest speakers have informed us on a variety of legal, medical, and protective services available to Winnemuccans and to those who reside in Humboldt County.

We were thinking “big” when we started, and now we are thinking bigger by applying for a grant to help us become Dementia-Friendly, too.

As you know, we are already well informed on Alzheimer’s in our community through outreach programs such as the Alzheimer’s Awareness Turkey Trot at Thanksgiving, the Tie-One-On bowtie tying competition during basketball season, and The Longest Day, a day to spend time doing things you love with those you love in honor of all of our dedicated, incredible caregivers.

With the addition of Quail Corner memory care unit, trained law enforcement, and expanded services by EMS and HGH, we really do reside in a terrific community.

The grant will allow us to advance our efforts (even though we would not let a little monetary problem stop our progress!). Ideas include marked bike lanes, more handicap parking in certain areas, added days of concierge services on the senior bus, more flags at busy intersections, and improved transportation for those in need.

What do you think? Are you wondering what you can do? How you can help? This is an exciting volunteer possibility where you can share your insight and expertise. We typically meet at HGH the 2nd Monday of the month at 5 p.m. and we always end by 6:30 p.m., however, in May we will meet the 3rd Monday, May 22, due to other conflicts (you see, we are also very flexible!).

All you need to do is join us, then listen, chat, provide ideas, and thus you become a vital member of our project. Everything you impart is greatly appreciated as is your participation.

We would really love to have residents of Denio, McDermitt, Paradise Valley, Golconda, Orovada, Kings River by Skype, FaceTime, or live. We need to know what rural areas already have in place for Age-Friendly and Dementia-Friendly residents and what you need. Only the imagination limits our endeavor.

The Alzheimer’s Association recently published a list of certain healthy behaviors that may reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

While we are all familiar with these, sometimes healthy living gets shoveled to the side. Drag these tricks out, shake them out, and you will automatically feel a difference.

You must stay mentally active, engage in regular physical activity, not smoke, and eat a heart-healthy diet that benefits your body and your brain.

With this beautiful weather it’s time to break a sweat through exercise, hit the books by taking a thought-provoking course, maintain a healthy weight, protect your head from brain injury by donning a helmet, catch some good, solid sleep (sometimes hard to achieve with our busy schedules), pay attention to mental health, stay socially engaged by spending enriching times with friends and family, and finally challenge your brain. Thinking is good!

Puzzles, intriguing questions, tough discussions, and participation in mind-expanding games are all good for maintaining an active brain. Of course, joining our Age-Friendly and Dementia-Friendly Project is the best possibility of all!