Brain Exercise

My mom lives at St. Anne Extended Healthcare, the nursing care wing of St. Anne of Winona complex here in Winona. Added on later were the assisted living wings, Callista Court, where she lived briefly until her fall a year ago. Callista’s main entrance is clear at the other end of the block from her SAEH room, and even though they’re connected by a little skyway, we don’t often travel that far when I visit.

Because it was so warm the other day, I took Mom outside in her wheel chair to walk the block to Callista’s entrance, and we checked out the “café” inside. It was pretty full due to a craft  project, so we went on to the (quieter) Library and found a square table with decks of cards nearby. I thought, “What the heck, she taught me to play solitaire when I was a kid…” So I laid out a game of (Klondike) solitaire to see how much she would remember. We were both delighted to find that, although she probably could not have laid out the game, she still remembers basically how to play – i.e., that the rows of declining numbers alternate black and red. After seeing it done once, she could put the aces up top, and she caught some of the moves without prompting. When I laid down some cards in front of her, she asked “Is that The Pile?”

She said afterward that she liked doing that – it was good for her brain. I now have a deck of cards in the “mom bag”, and we’ll play whenever time permits, and we find an open table.

What do you do that’s good for your brain?

43 thoughts on “Brain Exercise”

    1. my Son is coming into town from Phoenix to perform at his church for their Christmas ditty but I believe he performs at 10 o’clock in the morning and 7 o’clock in the evening in addition to his 3 o’clock performance so I can probably miss one unless the group would like to go to church and listen to my son to sing

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  1. The Cognitive Reserve theory holds that education, social interaction, and mental stimulation are all good for our brains and help protect us from developing dementia. I think that means that we contribute to our brain reserves every time we post here.

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  2. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    I do crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and I knit. Lately I found a new bliss. Playing a podcast and doing a jigsaw puzzle transports me there.

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    1. One of the symptoms my mother had that displayed damage from a small stroke involved Solitaire. While staying at my sister’s house she had an unnamed “episode” which we now have seen a few times: She is dizzy, throws up, gets red in the face, and becomes confused. For several days after she was laying out Solitaire hands. The cards which she played on the original hand made no sense and she seemed unaware of it. The last time Mom had an episode like this, she looked at me and called me “Donna” which is the name of her sister. We are quite sure that she has been having these for 10 years and probably led to the “Alzheimers” she is officially diagnosed with.

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  3. I like doing Kakuro puzzles, which involve some simple arithmetic. It makes me add the numbers in my head. These days there’s a lot of math I do on the computer, like balancing the checking account, and I don’t very often count change at a store anymore, since the card swipe has replaced most currency exchange. Kakuro puzzles may help keep my math skills sharp, in a way that is fun.

    I like jigsaw puzzles, too. Last year my sister had a 2,000 piece puzzle going on their dining room table, with many small pictures of different breeds of dogs. I would always put in a few pieces every time I visited. The puzzle was there for about a year before we finally finished it.

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  4. Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle and the second Sunday puzzle in the Strib, novel writing, golf (yes, golf! Much more mental stimulation than you might think . . . or maybe it’s just mental frustration. 😦

    Chris in Owatonna

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  5. I get outside and walk. Exercise (not much currently but hope to do more as I recover more). The other day I spent a lot of time updating my website and my brain felt tired as I kept having to learn new things – or re-learn things I had forgotten.

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      1. You’re scaring me, BiR. Do I gotta go back and struggle again with my old German translations? When the German-speaking parts of my mind went dormant, I had a party to celebrate. Given the choice of going senile or struggling with German again, I might have to think a long time before deciding.

        Of course, it is great for our brains to acquire other languages. I tell that to all the young people I know.

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        1. I too believe we should celebrate some parts of our memory going dormant – only re-learn the stuff you really want to… I imagine the desire to learn is in there somewhere (I’ve spoken before about “teachable moments.”)

          And for languages, there’s always pig-Latin!

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      2. I’m only re-learning things that I learned a few months ago. Which is easier, I’m sure, than relearning something from a few decades ago.

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  6. The math class I had last semester was good for my brain. The English class this semester isn’t as hard, but I have read a lot more and researched things and discovered things and learning is always fun.

    Programming lighting is a good brain exercise. It’s all about numbers; 4 of these lights take 17 channels each so patched into the console beginning at 2.169, each at 17, then 8 of these lights that take 12 channels each. Lay them out onstage, plug them in, record it in the console and see if they work… then make pretty pictures with them.
    I show the students the shiny spot on the wall. That’s the place where we bang our heads when it doesn’t work.
    A “universe” of lighting is 512 channels. The first universe is the main stage lighting. Everything else goes in the second universe. Snow machines, LED lights, moving lights, special effects… anything I want to control though the light board.
    You don’t have to fill the first before moving to the second. Which is good, because I don’t.

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  7. I love puzzles of all kinds, but don’t indulge regularly, except for Sudokus. I do at least a couple of tough ones every day. I find that some days I’m much better at it than on others. Somehow, there are days when I’m in the zone, although I couldn’t tell you what accounts for it. One of life’s small mysteries.

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  8. Oh, I also compete every afternoon on Jeopardy! Depending on the categories, I hold my own on some days. I still remember that I answered correctly the Final Jeopardy statement that sank Ken Jennings.

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  9. OT: I’ve been rocked today by the news that MPR has severed ties with Garrison Keillor. For me, this is a complicated event. If this story interests others, I’d participate. But I don’t need to talk about it if the story is something everyone else would rather ignore.

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    1. I would agree, not terribly surprised.

      I wonder, though, about what role might be played in some of these accusations of what psychologists call “disinhibition”. This is sort of on topic, since we are talking about brain function today. Sometimes people who are experiencing symptoms of dementia lose their sense of social norms. For a vast majority of the people who are being accused of harassment, this isn’t an excuse – Roy Moore, for example, was in his thirties when he was groping teenagers – but there may be some for whom this might be a factor.

      I started wondering about this when the accusations emerged against Charlie Rose.

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  10. To the question first: writing, especially if I give myself parameters to stay inside of (e.g., 500 words or less on topic X) – learning new things (may get to do a lot more of that soon at work) – doing creative things (you have 2 hours, this pile of stuff, and a glue gun…make something!) – and a handful of word and math-related games I play on my phone. Probably other stuff, too…like using my non-dominant hand to brush my teeth from time to time (just to make sure I still can, if nothing else).

    To the news of GK: like BiR, not terribly surprised by the news, but saddened. With Franken I feel more disappointed than anything else. I expected better of both.

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  11. I exercise my little gray cells with crossword puzzles (the harder the better), jigsaw puzzles, reading voraciously, piano playing, educational travel, and physical exercise.

    Terribly disappointed by Franken, not surprised by GK.

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  12. I sense no desire in others to discuss GK tonight. That’s not surprising. The topic is unpleasant and possibly painful. So we won’t talk about this tonight. I do, however, have strong feelings and (I believe) some perspectives that are not obvious. I’d like to share them at some other time.

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    1. I don’t think there’s any reluctance to discuss it; it’s just that few people are on the blog tonight. Also we don’t have a lot of detail about the allegations against GK. The woman hasn’t come out with any statement, so we have only GK’s story, not hers. But if you have something to say about it, go ahead.

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    2. Keeping in mind that any discussion about GK at this point can be nothing more than speculation and rumors, I’d be willing to listen to what your opinion is, Steve, and the rationale behind it. Perhaps in a private email?

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  13. I’m disturbed by the deluge of sexual harassment claims. But I am infuriated by Trump’s inflammatory anti-Muslim tweets today. There’s a lot of poor judgment in high places; none more appalling than that displayed by the clown masquerading as president.

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    1. yes. i read over and over the word “unprecedented” regarding trump’s words, tweets, and actions. sometimes “unprecedented” can be a good thing, but in the context of what i’m reading – it is not good, but very, very disturbing (and that’s an understatement).

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