Over the last couple of months, Monty and I have attended a lecture series on Total Brain Health sponsored by Tucson Medical Center.  In the first session, we learned about brain health, cell structure and function,  telemeters, genes and how to keep those neurons firing.  

The focus was on good healthy habits that are necessary to keep the brain active. Not only should we strive to eat a balanced diet, and get plenty of exercise and sleep, the key seems to be creating neural pathways. Learning a new language or learning to play a musical instrument are frequently referred to as excellent ways to create neural pathways.  

In the past, researchers thought the brain peaked in the late teens.  Thankfully they are more enlightened now, and realize our brain continues to add new cells and grow throughout our lives.  Thank goodness, I’d hate to think we were all stuck in adolescence !!

In an effort to teach us about creating neural pathways the next two sessions were set up to keep us on our toes and those neurons firing.  

 We should have expected a game day when the title of the class was ‘Beat The Clock’. These were brain games that required lots of thinking.  I was at a distinct disadvantage, Monty, of course, was a star.  

The room was set with four tables and everyone chose seats.  Our table group was a diverse group of senior citizens,  they were chatty and outgoing so it was fun right from the start.

The first game was similar to Scattergories – a dye with letters is tossed to provide the letter for the twelve questions listed on a card.  For example the letter might be ‘ L’ now look at the card and write your answer to questions, such as:

Name a female singer,- Linda Ronstandt, or Lady Gaga

What brightens a room -Lamp

Italian pasta –  Linguine  

Magazine – Ladies Home Journal

Most of us were stumped after answering eight or nine questions.  Monty, of course, answered all twelve, he is an over achiever. The game challenging because the clock was ticking.

Our table group moved to the next table where we attempted to play Boggle.  Create as many words as possible from the letters on the dice.  This proved to be difficult for all of us, maybe we just got a bad dice mixup.  This type of game was never my strong suit, I just don’t seem to be able to recognize the mixed letters into words.  

We moved to the next area to play Password.  We were all stars at this game and it was great fun.  The next table was a weird game that used   discs similar to a CD, with a dozen pictures on it.    We were each given a handful of these discs,  one disc was laid in the center of the table and we had to determine if we had a picture on our disc that matched the pictures on the center one.  The pictures might be the same but they were all different colors and sizes.  It was harder than it first appeared to be and required studying both discs every time.  It was sort of overload.  

It was a fun morning, each game we played utilized a different part of the brain.  The purpose was to better understand how the brain functions and to remind us to try new things to keep those  neurons firing. 

At the end of the session we selected a game or puzzle book to take home.  Kind of tricky though, if we said we enjoyed crossword books we were given a jigsaw puzzle, oh, you like Sudokus, have a crossword book.  They were determined to move us out of our comfort zone.

This week we attended the last session, entitled ‘It’s a Toss Up’.  This was my kind of game day, emphasizing hand eye coordination.  Remember the wooden  paddles that came with a ball attached to a rubber band?  Every kid had one of these dime store toys.  When the rubber band finally broke, my mom  put the paddle in the linen closet, in case I needed a swat or two.  

It seemed much harder to use these paddles as adults than it was when we were kids, but we all had fun trying to keep the ball bouncing without putting our eye out.  Tossing a bean bag up in the air with one hand was fun, followed by a ball and then an irregular shaped item that looked like a brain, it was much more difficult with the irregular shape. Whether it was the bean bag, ball or brain shaped thing we got better as we practiced.   

Our group moved to the next table where Monty showed us all how to win at Jacks.  He credited his expertise to having two older sisters.  Jim was in our group and apparently he didn’t have any older sisters to teach him how to play, he just couldn’t get the hang of it. He appeared a bit skeptical that Monty was forced to play with his sisters.  I spent hours playing jacks as a kid and it was fun to do it again. There was another game with a magnet and bells that no one could do successfully.  

We were happy to move on to the next area where we sat in a circle and tossed various size balls back and forth following the commands of the leader. To the right, to the left , across the circle, two balls opposite directions and two trying to catch up to each other around the circle, it was organized chaos but there was a lot of laughing.The bean bag toss was the last game and produced a lot of cheering and high fives.  

When we gathered our coats to leave we felt we’d had a work out.  I lost count of how many times I scrambled on the floor to retrieve an errant ball, not to mention moving from table to table.   Reminder: get some exercise, our brains need oxygen to work at their best.  

The two sessions of games definitely had a party atmosphere but no one  excelled at all of the games.  We all appeared to be out of our comfort zones at one time or another.  

The take away message: Expand our horizons, don’t just stick with something you have already mastered.  Try something new, it keeps the brain tuned up.  Practice makes perfect, the more you work at something the better you will be at it. Breathe, the brain needs oxygen just like our muscles, take a walk,  get outdoors, join a fitness class.  

There are lots of activities that will keep our brains active. In my case, I added Sudoku to my I Pad and although I’m not very good at it yet I’m working on it. Monty added jigsaw puzzles to his.  If you enjoy doing crossword puzzles, great, maybe add a beat the clock aspect to it.  

Monty is looking for a set of jacks, it’s nice to be a winner, but I think I can give him a run for his money on this one. 

2 replies
  1. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    This sounded like the perfect day to work your brain cells and have fun doing it. Sudoku I’ve not attempted as I already sure I would not do well. My one sister plays that all the time and she’s “smart.”

    • Carrie Bonello
      Carrie Bonello says:

      I have irational fear of numbers, but sudoku on the I pad it much easier than on paper. I found I can concentrate and actually enjoy the process. Monty said he will teach me all the ‘tricks’ when I master the easy stuff. Maybe that’s next year’s progress!!


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