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Brain health is as crucial as physical health


As we celebrate the Fourth of July we may not have a rocket’s red glare and hopefully not “bombs bursting in air” but a shower of new information tells us that as seniors we have new opportunities to celebrate Independence Day.

On June 21, the longest day of the year, Portland’s Alzheimer’s Association and Mary’s Woods hosted a program from Roger Anunsen, a nationally recognized expert on brain health. The program targeted to seniors was titled “Hope Springs Internal.” On the same day I received a message from Massachusetts General Hospital about a newsletter for seniors titled “Mind, Mood & Memory.” Clearly we have entered the Golden Age of Brain Science. We have new information that can benefit all of us. We can benefit from new opportunities and new freedoms.

Information from Mass General opens with the headline “How will you best maintain your independence?” And then adds “Good news! You can reduce your risk of memory loss!”

Anunsen and his partner in mindRAMP have developed six cog wheels of brain health. Both sources are very similar, dealing with physical and mental exercise, diets and vitamins, socializing, etc. Some of the information is more detailed than I can handle. Some is immediately understandable and helpful.

The importance of both mental and physical exercise is especially useful to me. Damage from polio limits my physical activity but I’ve learned that moving around is as valuable to me as mountain climbing may be to others. I have a rule for myself — get up and move around at least once every hour of the day. Another idea that I feel was meant especially for me is my discomfort in remembering dates. The suggestion is to find keys to a date and tie it into my brain and my conversations. Date of birth is an example. I’m asked for that so often that it’s unforgettable, but to provide a valuable bit of brain exercise I could say, “I was born the same year that the Great Depression began. I know because I looked it up.”

For today I promise myself to save a July 4 sparkler that I can wave to celebrate receiving my first copy of the new “Mind, Mood & Memory” newsletter. Then I can share information in this column along with details of Roger Anunsen’s program. Happy holiday!

Stories for Positive Aging is a semi-monthly column on senior issues written by Lake Oswego resident Ardis Stevenson, author of “Facing Age, Finding Answers” and “Dusty’s War.” She can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by regular mail at 17440 Holy Names Drive, Lake Oswego, OR 97034.