Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.
- See second column – Are We Really Old? – here.
- See third column – Cars and More Cars – here.
- See fourth column – Getting Educated – here.
- See fifth column – Home Alone? – here.
- See sixth column – Death – here.
- See seventh column – They’re Playing Our Song – here.
- See eighth column – Driving: Knowing When To Quit – here.
- See ninth column – Hobbies: What’s Your Favorite – here.
- See 10th column – ‘The Last of Life, for which the First was Made’ – here.
- See 11th column – Volunteeering – here.
- See 12th column – Duck and Cover – here.
- See 13th column – Providing for the Future – here.
- See 14th column – Here We Go Wandering… – here.
- See 15th column – State of Schools – here.
- See 16th column – Our War – here.
- See 17th column – Behind the Curtain – here.
By Steve Canipe
May 16, 2014. “Lost your mind,” “out of your mind,” “mindless,” these are all terms that may have been said to you at some point and maybe it was somewhat true. But this column is about something far deeper and much scarier to those of us boomers. I am talking about Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
How can we avoid that pitfall of not remembering or having the mental acuity we did when we were 30 somethings? There is a growing marketing strategy around having us boomers stay in sound mind. Some marketers have called these activities “brain games” and there is even a television program of the same name and produced by National Geographic. If you have not watched it you might be fascinated.
Recent research reported out of the University of Texas seems to indicate that these brain games may not be as helpful as advertised in helping one maintain an active brain as we age. What the research there did find was very interesting. You can hear and read a report concerning this research, which is reported by NPR on the web by clicking this link.
There are many things that can be undertaken to help keep the brain active and decrease the chances for any type of dementia. The NPR story describes an 82 year old man who took up PhotoShop and digital photography. Not only did he master the software he kept his mental acuity. His wife had an issue with dementia before she passed away and he was concerned about himself.
The research showed it was not just the social activity or the need to focus that was the most help. Playing Sudoku and doing crosswords might be fun and maybe even helps, but is the mastering of something that is difficult that seemed to have the most effect. The researchers found that things like quilting were equally good in brain training. Must be the patterns!!
Not only was it important that the brain be engaged, the researchers found that physical activity was equally important. If you consider that keeping good brain oxygenation up and that this oxygen comes from training through exercise, it makes perfect sense.
So now with this knowledge what are we going to do as boomers to keep our minds active? What are we going to try to master?
When I was living in Flagstaff, AZ and volunteering at Wupatki National Monument, the district ranger had a plan for ever zero year birth anniversary—30, 40, 50, etc. She did something that was a mental challenge and something that was a physical challenge. On her 40th, she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and learned to play a musical instrument. This might be a good challenge for us…something mental and something physical.
As I have thought about this activity that the ranger did and as I am getting older, I am thinking that maybe I need to do a 5 year anniversary thing. Since as one of the oldest boomers, I will soon be hitting a 5 year, which for me will also be a zero year, in 2 years, I should begin thinking of the challenges.
There are any number of challenges I could do but I do have to be realistic – my old bones and muscles, while they may remember the times they could help me run and jump, are just not elastic enough to do that any longer. So probably hiking the entire length of the Appalachian Trail is out for the physical activity….although I would like to do it….maybe do it in pieces?
Mental challenges are probably easier – like learning Spanish, at least enough to actually converse with someone. Maybe I could take up painting – artistic type. Or maybe I could do one of those mental projects that I have been intending to do but keep postponing, like writing my family’s genealogical history. When I was recently in Germany, I saw an inn that was called a Kneipe – that is close to the original spelling of my name Kneip – it meant innkeeper; so the word is still there in German and still has the same basic meaning. This was very interesting to find out.
All families have some interesting people in them. Perhaps the most interesting in my family was a Sgt. Daniel Kanipe (same family with the different spelling) who served in the 7th Cavalry with General Custer. Kanipe was sent to get relief for Custer as he was being surrounded by the Native Americans, but upon arrival at Captain Benteen’s location was refused permission to return. Well you know most of the story – Custer’s troops were all killed. What you may not know is that Kanipe ultimately returned to NC and made his home in Marion. There is even a state plaque in front of the house. A picture of the house and plaque are shown below.
Is research on the family enough to keep your mind active? Do we all need to get involved with something that is difficult as has been suggested by research? Maybe we could take some academic classes at the local community college for our health? Would this work? We have a wonderful community college system in NC and here in Boone we have a branch of Caldwell Community College. But we also have an outstanding University here in our backyard as well – Appalachian State. Neither website seems particularly user friendly if you are not a regular student applying, so talking with a counselor or enrollment advisor is probably the best way to find out more about taking an interest course to stretch your mind!!
If you look around, you will no doubt find something close at hand to learn more about and perhaps write about. I looked about a half of a mile from where I grew up and discovered that the first governor of the state of Texas was born there. No it was not Sam Houston; but was James P. Henderson. Little has been written about this man who was quite a mover and shaker in the politics of early Texas.
Let me hear from you about your thoughts on stretching and exercising your mind.. What do you do to keep your mind active – crosswords or something physical? Send your thoughts, either via email at [email protected] or post them at the end of the column. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.