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Welcome to our Senior Corner.

I’d like to share with you an enjoyable program I recently attended at Collabria Care’s community room in Napa. The program was the first in a series to be presented this year by Kal Edwards called Retirement Renewal Forums. This is a continuation of a successful year of 2016.

The program was titled, “Healthy Brains: How to Keep (Or Lose) Your Mind,” and the speaker was outstanding. We learned some amazing facts about the brain from Pat Wolfe, Ed.D. who does extensive research on the brain.

Even though we in the audience were there to learn about this subject, as seniors, some of us are becoming somewhat forgetful, and therefore beginning to be concerned about whether or not we might be candidates for early stages of Alzheimer’s disease; so we were a bit nervous about what we would learn.

Wolfe, however kept our evening enlightened with a marvelous sense of humor, and we sat back to learn about our outstanding and complex brains. We were assured that, for the most part what we were experiencing was probably not the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but rather AAMI – age associated memory impairment.

Wolfe gave us a thorough overview of what happens to our brains as we age, and it’s very true, our brains will change as we age, but there are steps we can take now that will help keep us functioning. and independent for quite some time to come.

Wolfe stresses that the number one thing we could do to really sharpen our brains is to learn a new language, or anything new that is a true challenge for us.

I’ve been doing Sudoku for several years, and I must admit, I’m a little obsessed with it, but once problem solving becomes easy, it’s of no further value. You are no longer learning anything new. Learning must be challenging, not easy. For instance, if you enjoy crossword puzzles and you pride yourself on how swiftly you can finish them, you are not expanding your brain with new knowledge. Your brain already knows how to do these. We need to find things that are quite difficult, similar to using heavier weights to develop our muscles.

Wolfe explained the answer to “what is learning and memory?”

“Learning is the act of making (and strengthening) connections between thousands of neurons forming neural networks or maps. Memory is the ability to reconstruct or reactivate the previously-made connections. Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

Another interesting point that Wolfe made is that “the brain is connected to the body. What’s good for the body is good for the brain! One example is exercise. It is essential. More oxygen to the brain increases growth factors that keep cells healthy.”

We learned several ideas on prevention such as: Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks each day, lose weight, sleep seven to eight hours a night, learn to relax, get rid of stress, keep blood pressure down, keep diabetes under control, and don’t smoke.

More things to do: Take a class, attend lectures, join a book club and discussion group, work puzzles, play memory games, debate, discuss topics, learn a new dance or instrument, write your memoirs, pursue hobbies and passions, and change your routines.

Become a “social butterfly.” Wolfe told us that studies show that socially active seniors are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than their wallflower counterparts.

General dietary guidelines that Wolfe suggests: The Mediterranean diet may protect against dementia. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries and beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine. Limit red meats, butter, cheese, pastries, sweets, fried or fast foods.

Thank you, Pat Wolfe, for this wonderfully informative lecture, and for your most welcome sense of humor on a serious and important subject. It was a truly delightful experience.

I want us to be able to gather together for our weekly visits for as long as we are able, so please join me in working to make it happen.

And, remember attitude. Let’s all be social butterflies. Get out of your house, and get away from your TV. Hop on the merry-go-round, and make a great life for yourself. See you again soon, and remember to care for one another.