From Where I Sit – Use It or Lose It

We’ve all heard and used the expression ?Use it or lose it.? It’s become a cliché increasingly linked to the exploding numbers of baby boomers and the epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease That’s expected to beset them/us.

I remember my mom and her siblings taking shifts to help care for their father and ease the load on his wife. His behaviour baffled and saddened them. He would wake and wander. Most homes aren’t secure enough to keep a person from escaping in the dead of night in an Alberta winter. The emotional and physical cost to the caregivers is crippling. Sooner or later all sufferers are hospitalized for the sake of both patient and loved ones.

I have a friend?male, competent, career policeman?who couldn’t cope with the decline of his mother. He was badly affected by her inability to ever recognize him and eventually left the visiting to his wife and children. He feared for his own lucidity.

Any of us who have misplaced our keys wonder if we’re losing it. I remember someone saying losing keys is fine; It’s when you don’t know what to do with a key that you have a problem. We’ve all been advised to consciously work on using our faculties. Do crossword puzzles. Play Sudoku. Alter your route when driving; don’t do things by rote. Play games like Brain Age that challenge you and monitor your progress. Read.

These are all great devices. But maybe what’s even more effective is arranging our lives so that learning and firing those synapses is required to get through the day. Last Saturday I took an extension course called Blog Your Book at an Edmonton university. All (except one) in the class, including the instructor, were clearly card-carrying boomers. Young whippersnappers are probably self-taught and don’t need instruction on types, functions, and the how-to of blogging.

I was stretched by the listening, looking, and note-taking required. And while it felt like information overload, my brain loved the workout. The next challenge, of course, is using all the resources and info I now have, to get up and running. More brain work. Yippee.

Yesterday Roy started a new job hauling gravel on the logging roads north of Lac La Biche. From his description of the day, I know another boomer whose brain is being tested. There are dedicated Transport Canada radio frequencies that must be used to avoid head-on collisions on these scary roads. The curvy roads are narrow and icy and without gravel. The loaded trucks strain to climb the short, steep hills that come one after the other. In places the speed limit is 20 kilometres an hour. It takes a masterful driver to keep his baby on the road, shift for the constant grade changes, and announce his location via radio in especially dangerous places (like one-lane bridges) on the haul road.

Soooo, what are you doing today to hang onto your functioning? It boils down to use it or lose it, from where I sit.

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