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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Just a Bite May 26th, 2009

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

A horse is dangerous on both ends and
uncomfortable in the middle.
~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (born May 22, 1859 - 150 last week!)

Resources to bite into

1. Do we all have blind spots? *

As the current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly notes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a complex human being who created in the character of Sherlock Holmes a man noted for his intellectual prowess and uncommon powers of observation and deductive reasoning. He scolded his sidekick Dr. Watson, “You see, but you do not observe.” Yet the author also believed in fairies and was famously taken in by a photographic hoax. He had a falling out with his friend Harry Houdini because he refused to believe him when Houdini insisted he did not have supernatural powers and was merely a magician. Perhaps we all believe what we want to believe in some circumstances.

2. Riddles *

Three famous mystery writers have their birthdays near the end of May – the others are Dashiell Hammett, May 27, 1894, and Ian Fleming, May 28, 1908. You may like reading their full-length mystery books or you may prefer solving 30-second mysteries, which are often found in the guise of riddles. For example, what:
· Is pronounced as one letter; written with three, including one letter the same at both ends, i.e., a simple palindrome
· And comes in many colors but is most common in two?
(Answer on next page)

3. Backyard games *

Physical Fitness and Sports Month is coming to an end and last week was Backyard Games Week, so the reminiscence portion of the current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly focuses on the delights of jacks, marbles, jump rope, Red Rover, Captain May I? and more, but the reality is that backyard games – precisely because they imply getting outdoors – are great anytime. If you’re no longer a candidate for vigorous tag, you may still be able to play croquet, badminton and lawn bowling, for example. Keeping score is optional, but keeping moving daily is good for body and brain.

* These items are easily adapted when working with people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Answer to riddle: eye

Tips/ideas/insights to savor

An article by Benedict Carey called “At the Bridge Table, Clues to a Lucid Old Age” appeared in the New York Times May 22 (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/22/health/research/22brain.html?ref=health). There is no room to quote it at length here, but one particular point is worth making, because it seems to affirm the results of an increasing number of studies – which, thankfully, are beginning to look at successful aging instead of its opposite. Here are excerpts:

The project, begun by University of Southern California researchers in 1981 and called the 90+ Study, has included more than 14,000 people aged 65 and older, and more than 1,000 aged 90 or older. “These are the most successful agers on earth, and they’re only just beginning to teach us what’s important, in their genes, in their routines, in their lives,” said Dr. Claudia Kawas, a neurologist at the University of California, Irvine. “We think, for example, that it’s very important to use your brain, to keep challenging your mind, but all mental activities may not be equal. We’re seeing some evidence that a social component may be crucial.”

. . . So far, scientists here have found little evidence that diet or exercise affects the risk of dementia in people over 90. But some researchers argue that mental engagement — doing crossword puzzles, reading books — may delay the arrival of symptoms. And social connections, including interaction with friends, may be very important, some suspect. In isolation, a healthy human mind can go blank and quickly become disoriented, psychologists have found.

“There is quite a bit of evidence now suggesting that the more people you have contact with, in your own home or outside, the better you do” mentally and physically, Dr. Kawas said. “Interacting with people regularly, even strangers, uses easily as much brain power as doing puzzles, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this is what it’s all about.”

Bottom line: Keep on making new friends.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Just a Bite May19th, 2009

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

Travelers never think that they are the foreigners.
~Mason Cooley

Resources to bite into

1. Study a map

The current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly focuses on geography in honor of the National Geographic Bee that takes place this week for thousands of students in grades 4 – 8. Here are some sample questions for you:
Mont Blanc is the highest point in Western Europe. What two countries is it between?
What country is Mount Kilimanjaro in?
Mount Erebus is a volcano on which continent?
The last was the winning question in 1990 and was answered by sixth grader Susannah Batko-Yovino, the first female to win the competition. (Answers below)
2. Still being punny *

Because I love puns, the word game in the current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly uses geographic puns. For example:
What country is the best place to find men’s neckwear?
Jan would like a _______ sugar for her coffee, please.
I don’t know how to _______ piano. He needs a professional.
The complete quiz can be found at http://www.punpunpun.com/7794.html.
3. Celebrating turtles *

May 23rd is World Turtle Day an event begun by the American Tortoise Rescue organization in Malibu, California to both celebrate turtles and tortoises and work toward their conservation because many are endangered. My mother was particularly fond of turtles. In various cultures they symbolize inner reflection, peace, patience, wisdom, being well-grounded, longevity, and heaven protecting earth, so they seem an especially appropriate symbol for her. Learn more at http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/a_closer_look_at_wildlife/turtles_and_tortoises/celebrate_world_turtle_day.html.

* These items are easily adapted when working with people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Quiz answers: 1) France and Italy; 2) Tanzania; 3) Antarctica
Puns: Thailand, of course; Cuba and Tunis

Tips/ideas/insights to savor

My daughter Lisa recently sent me a card showing a woman in white shoes – faced with no visible alternative – about to plunge across a muddy street. The caption said, “Ever notice that ‘What the hell’ is always the right decision?” (Borealis Press) The reality is that each day we are likely faced with challenges we had neither planned on nor wished for, and usually plunging in and dealing with them IS the right decision.

On the other hand, last week in another moment of mother-daughter bonding, I attended a motivational seminar with my daughter Kristi that was (ironically) not particularly motivating, although we each took away something of value from it. In my case it was a reminder that different strokes work for different folks. So here’s an exercise to do with people you work with or are serving on a committee with that may help you maximize everyone’s potential:
Rank the following 10 items according to what matters most to you with #1 being most important and #10 being least important:
___ Monetary compensation or bonus (like extra vacation time)
___ Power and influence over others for doing what you do
___ Private verbal recognition for work well done
___ Public recognition for work well done (ceremony, award, plaque)
___ Autonomy to get a job done in the way that suits you best
___ A sense of accomplishment from doing a job well
___ A sense that you have contributed to a greater cause or helped others
___ Gaining new skills or learning something new (personal development)
___ Being part of a team that performs well together (building relationships)
___ Having fun, enjoying your work and the people you work with

Then discuss your rankings as a group and leave your list with the project chair so that he or she can have a better chance of leading you to success.

Let the ever-ripening Wiser Now website become the apple of your eye.
-- Host a workshop, purchase materials or click on the blue print to sign up for Brain Aerobics Weekly. and Wiser Now Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Tips.

Just a Bite May 12th, 2009

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.
~ Frank Capra (born May 18, 1897)

Resources to bite into
1. Begin anytime *

The current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly celebrates Creative Beginnings Month with a quiz on the famous opening lines of well-known movies, and celebrates movie directors with a brief bio of Orson Welles. Like fellow director Frank Capra quoted above, Mr. Welles (born May 6, 1915) reached the pinnacle of his career relatively early in life, but if you know only that he directed the movie “Citizen Kane” (which premiered May 1, 1941) you miss out on most of the richness of who he was as a human being – painter, prodigy, magician, raconteur. (As a magician he appeared on “I Love Lucy.” See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUNc3ASCoeM.) Pinnacles of fame and fortune by definition are one time events, but creative beginnings can happen daily.

2. Very punny *

May 16 is the O. Henry World Championship Pun-off at the O. Henry Museum in Austin, Texas, where William Sidney Porter, the man who wrote most of his short stories under the pen-name O. Henry, lived from 1893 to 1895. O. Henry was not famous for incorporating puns in his writing, but he was famous for his surprise endings, which is the essence of puns. Here is a pun by Kirk Miller featured in the current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly that combines a pun and a limerick (Limerick Day is May 12):
The ant basketball team made a vow
To get better, but didn't know how
No, it just wasn't right
To be lacking in height
What they needed were tolerance, now

3. Let time melt *

Another quirky personality featured in the current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly is Salvador Dali, who would have turned 105 this week (born May 11, 1904). While Orson

Welles tried his hand in radio, theatre, movies and television, Salvador Dali’s lifelong passion was painting. Whether you have one interest or many, put your heart into it/them and let the days flow; let time melt away.

* These items are easily adapted when working with people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips/ideas/insights to savor

Salvador Dali never confined himself to painting things as they were, but allowed his imagination to float wherever it might take him. One of the lamentations I have been hearing often lately is how little time we have to daydream, to mull over challenges without the incessant noise of constant activity. Yet, if we give our minds free rein, who knows what problems they might solve?

I recently had the pleasure of hearing the researcher Jeffrey N. Keller, Ph.D., at an Alzheimer’s conference where we were both presenters. A woman whose husband was a participant in a drug trial that proved highly effective for him expressed her frustration that the trial was stopped when relatively few participants were helped by the drug, thus denying him further access to it. Dr. Keller’s response was that the present system of drug trials is not set up in a way that enables us to pre-select who might benefit most from a drug. He suspects that Alzheimer’s disease has multiple variations, and that in the case of the drug her husband benefited from, it was 100% effective on the people who had his variation, but because it wasn’t effective on the people who had, let us say, variations B – F, the trial was stopped. Eventually, he hoped, we will be able to better isolate variations in multiple chronic diseases so that we know which drugs are likely to be of greatest benefit to which patients, but without continuing trials on those isolated populations who find a particular drug beneficial – and so far, such smaller-focused trials are not financially viable for drug companies – progress isn’t easy. Someone needs to have time for daydreaming and mulling to solve conundrums like this.

Let the ever-ripening Wiser Now website become the apple of your eye.
-- Host a workshop, purchase materials or click on the blue print to sign up for Brain Aerobics Weekly. and Wiser Now Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Tips.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Just a Bite 4-28-09

Quote to ponder under the apple tree

Dance is the hidden language of the soul.
~Martha Graham (born May 11, 1894)

Resources to bite into

1. Dance the night away *

The current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly uses a quiz on famous dancers born in May to combine the celebration of International Dance Week April 24 through May 3 with Tap Dancing Day on May 25. The latter is a day which particularly celebrates the life of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, whose birthday (as nearly as can be determined) was that date in 1878. Mr. Robinson did not gain the attention of white audiences until he was paired with Shirley Temple in a series of 1930s films, but in his lifetime of dancing he influenced thousands of performers and forged surprising alliances – his funeral in 1949 was arranged by Ed Sullivan and attended by 32,000 people. Few people can match his talent, but we can all dance to our own music. (The dance illustrated in this photo can be found on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjCFYpWDmfM.)

2. Thinking about your demise *

The current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly also combines the end of Humor Month with the beginning of the Merry Month of May and the celebration of Cartoonist Day (May 5) by featuring the delightful book Last Laughs, Cartoons about Aging, Retirement . . . and the Great Beyond, edited by cartoonist Mort Gerberg. Contemplating aging and our own funerals has never been so funny. I was especially intrigued by the answers the cartoonists gave to the seven questions Mort Gerberg posed to each of them. For example, when he asked, “How would you prefer to arrive at The End?” several cartoonists answered, “Late,” “Unexpectedly,” and “Out of breath.” To order Last Laughs, click here.

3. May 1 is Lei Day *

Hawaiians celebrate their special symbol of hospitality every May 1 with a wide variety of events, only a few of which center on lei-making. If you can’t make it to Hawaii this Friday, consider bestowing hospitality of your own by giving someone an unexpected bouquet or a pineapple or a party!

* These items are easily adapted when working with people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips/ideas/insights to savor

The current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly has a discussion page which uses unusual questions asked of Marilyn Vos Savant who writes a weekly “Ask Marilyn” column in Parade magazine. It also uses book titles from David Feldman and unusual questions found on websites like http://www.hintsandthings.com/games/imponderable.htm. The point of the discussion page is simply to amuse (or perhaps to start a conversation about something other than the weather):
Why is it that my lipstick doesn’t last on my lips for more than 10 minutes, but remains on my glass even after it has been through the dishwasher?
We sometimes say, “That’s Greek to me” when we don’t know an answer. What do the Greeks say?

However, another way to use the questions is as a matching game in which partners are found by giving each person a sign with half a question written in 4-inch letters and asking them to find their other half:
When a bank is sold . . . who gets all the money?
Where does weight go . . . when people lose it?
Do bees . . . get wax in their ears?
How does the man who drives the snow plough . . . get to work?
How does an aspirin . . . find a headache?
Why do clocks . . . run clockwise?
Why do irons . . . have a permanent press setting?
If you choke a Smurf . . . what color does it turn?
When partners are found, line everyone up for amusing reading.

Still another way to use this idea is ask your group to brainstorm unusual questions of their own.

Let the ever-ripening Wiser Now website become the apple of your eye.
-- Host a workshop, purchase materials or click on the blue print to sign up for Brain Aerobics Weekly. and Wiser Now Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Tips.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just a Bite May 12th, 2009

For those who want to cut to the chase, click here to access a pdf file of the current Just a Bite.

This week’s issue celebrates Creative Beginnings Month, creative people and puns and limericks.

We have just redesigned our two main websites. The Wiser Now website (http://www.wisernow.com/) now has been simplified and is easier to navigate, especially if you wish to order Brain Aerobics Weekly. The Wiser Now Alzheimer’s website (www.wisernowalz.com) is also easier to navigate for ordering our books on Alzheimer’s disease and the monthly, downloadable Wiser Now Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Tips – a great training tool for families and professionals. The websites www.brainaerobicsweekly.com and www.wisernow.com are now the same.

For the purpose of clarity and efficiency, we will also soon be putting the content of Just a Bite on my blog (which is why Just a Bite is no longer featured on the websites.) We will keep you posted on all these changes which will soon allow us to add some features that we’ve had too little time for.
Celebrate your creativity and the chance for new beginnings that May offers.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Just a Bite

If you think we might be the apple of your eye, check back each week for Wiser Now’s free weekly digest, "Just a Bite." Each Tuesday I'll post the current issue that includes brief timely tips, insights, resources and encouragement on all the issues Wiser Now covers. Click here for this weeks copy. Enjoy!