Aging Well March 23

Last week was Brain Awareness Week – no, I didn’t forget, apparently I just wasn’t aware. But at the Center and in this column I have been discussing and promoting brain fitness for some time. Although it is personal (where is my banana?), there is a growing national interest in how our brain functions so as we live longer, we can continue to be productive and enjoy our later years.

At last year’s “Aging in America” conference I attended a workshop by Alvaro Fernandez, co-founder and chief executive officer of SharpBrains which provides independent, research-based, information about the growing brain fitness market. Their website offers fascinating information about the brain including a list of ten lifestyle activities to help maintain and improve your brain health. As part of Brain Fitness Week – better late than never – I want to share them with you in an abbreviated version – since we all have things to do and people to meet.

1. Better understand your brain. “It will serve you well to appreciate your brain’s beauty as a living and constantly-developing dense forest with billions of neurons and synapses”.
2. Eat well. The “brain only weighs 2% of body mass but consumes over 20% of the oxygen and nutrients we intake.” And especially avoid the junk foods.
3. Exercise. “Things that exercise your body can also help sharpen your brain”.
4. Be positive. “Stress and anxiety, no matter whether induced by external events or by your own thoughts, actually kills neurons and prevent the creation of new ones. You can think of chronic stress as the opposite of exercise: it prevents the creation of new neurons.”
5. Engage in Mental Challenges. “The point of having a brain is precisely to learn and to adapt to challenging new environments. Challenge your brain often with fundamentally new activities”.
6. Aim high. “The brain keeps developing, no matter your age, and it reflects what you do with it.”
7. Explore and travel. “Adapting to new locations forces you to pay more attention to your environment. Make new decisions, use your brain.”
8. Think for yourself. “Make your own decisions, and mistakes. And learn from them. That way, you are training your brain, not your neighbor’s”.
9. Develop and maintain stimulating friendships. “We are ‘social animals’, and need social interaction”.
10. Laugh loud and often, “especially to cognitively complex humor, full of twists and surprises”.

In a nutshell, the four legs to the table of good brain health are: physical exercise, a balanced diet, stress management, and brain exercise. At the Center there are activities addressing all to these legs: Seniorcise and Strong Women, the Meals-on-Wheels’ noon dinner, yoga and massage, and the Center’s Brain Fitness class. Celebrate a belated Brain Awareness Week by stopping by the Center and giving your brain a treat.

And speaking of treats, there are only four months this year that include a special fifth Tuesday and March is one of those months. And what does that mean? Another evening of dancing on the 30th for all of you dancing fools. And the special treat will be the Dufur Boys (and one girl) playing for your dancing and listening pleasure. And tonight don’t forget the Jazz Generations playing your favorites from not too long ago. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. And all generations are welcome.

The answer to last week’s “Remember When” question was “Wheaties” – the Breakfast of Champions. The name randomly drawn from the fourteen entries and winner of a free Cherry Festival Saturday breakfast at the Center is Nadine McCracken.

This week’s question and another chance to win a free breakfast in April is “What 1959 epic film directed by William Wyler, won eleven academy awards and included a chariot race – considered by many as one of the most spectacular action sequences ever filmed? Call 541-296-4788, email or just write the answer on the back of a 1200 sq ft piece of carpet delivered to the Center.

Well that is another week with flowers sprouting – checking who is new in the neighborhood. Until we meet again, take a chance and try something uncomfortable – anything new will be.

“Brain: an apparatus with which we think we think.” Ambrose Bierce