BrainBuilders program strengthens memory and socialization through brain ‘workouts’

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa,

Purdue SLHS student works with BrainBuilders client

A graduate student from Purdue’s speech-language pathology program works with a BrainBuilders client on individual goals.Tim Brouk

For older adults who may have concerns about their memory or are experiencing language issues, Purdue University’s BrainBuilders program is designed to help maintain cognitive and social skills by giving their brains a workout. The program meets from 10-11:30 a.m. Thursdays in Lyles-Porter Hall on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, and it is currently accepting new clients for the spring semester.

Housed in the College of Health and Human SciencesDepartment of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, the program utilizes graduate students from the No. 3 ranked speech-language pathology program in the nation to facilitate individual and group cognitive exercises and engage clients in creative activities centered on a weekly theme. Michelle Gutmann, clinical professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences and a licensed speech-language pathologist, supervises the students.

 “This group has a unique function in that it provides cognitive stimulation, socialization and focused therapy,” Gutmann said.

BrainBuilders client engages in computer exercises

Popular themes for BrainBuilders meetings have included cybersecurity and recognizing email scams to help clients become more comfortable using the computer.Tim Brouk

Each meeting involves 30 minutes of one-on-one therapy, where clients work toward their individual goals. Then, they reconvene for light physical exercises in their chairs as well as cognitive exercises that focus on the week’s theme. The program aims to concentrate on topics that are relevant to clients, and past themes have included cybersecurity and recognizing scams that target seniors via phone or email.

“That’s been a huge hit for people because we’ve had members who — because of lack of practice or knowledge — are very vulnerable using the computer,” Gutmann said.

The program accepts Medicare, Aetna and Anthem insurance. The tentative start date for spring is Jan. 27, and patients must complete an assessment prior to the start of the program to determine eligibility.

Those who are interested in joining the program or learning more should contact Michelle Gutmann at or 765-494-3809.