It really is use it or lose it, and this is the one part of the whole mish mash of who I am I'd really like to keep healthy and in good working order. This means keeping it lubricated and making sure I give it frequent tune ups. I was more than pleased when my doctor said she no longer thinks brain surgery is the best option for me. They have yet to perfect the electrodes so they can up and down like My Favorite Martian. I have my standards.
Since an overhaul is not in the forseeable future, this means I'd better take regular maintenance seriously. My husband approves of this, so I'm learning to eat fish, using olive oil, and exercising my brain. Opportunities abound for sharpening the wit, inspiring the imagination, encouraging creativity, and convincing the little gray cells, and white cells, to keep on working. Here are some suggestions:
Audit classes at a local college
You can take classes for credit, of course, but auditing is much less expensive and less work. You don't have to write papers or take exams. If I have to miss a few days, it's not such a big deal.
At the University of Colorado in Boulder, any Colorado resident who is 55 years old or older may audit classes for a nominal fee. This year (2012/2013) the fee is $25.00 per semester.
http://www.ucdenver.edu/prospective-students/Pages/SeniorCitizensProgram.aspx At the University of Colorado at Denver, Colorado residents age 60 and older may audit for free.
In both these programs, acceptance is dependent on a space available and permission from the professor. There are a few other limitations, but there are plenty of opportunities. Last semester, I took the class, “Introduction to American Political Processes”. Considering we also had the presidential election last fall, this class was relevant, practical, and taught by a master teacher who had us laughing while we learned. This semester, I am taking a class on World Religions.
Learn a language
After getting to know a Spanish speaking family in Chicago last April, I was determined to brush up on my skills so conversations in Spanish would be easier for me. This was the second class I audited last fall. Unfortunately, I had to drop the class. Two classes were just too much. Fortunately, there are other ways to learn languages which are free and fun.
I'm not sure how many people out there want to learn Welsh, but this is the best language program I've ever experienced. It's auditory; the teacher gives you certain words and patterns, then will speak English phrases, which you will say in Welsh, using the tools you've been given. I was hooked after the first lesson, possibly because I had been saying “I like speaking Welsh”, “I want to speak Welsh”, “I'm going to speak Welsh”, for twenty minutes.
I'm working on German and Spanish with this program. It's fun and easy, though I don't remember the vocabulary as well as I do with the Welsh. They also have French, Italian, and Portuguese.
There's also: www.learnalanguage.com, www.word2word.com,www.123TeachMe.com, www.digitaldialects.com,www.mylanguages.org, and www.omniglot.com. This last one is very useful, especially if you want to learn some very practical phrases like “My hovercraft is full of eels”, “How much is that doggie in the window?”, or “Could you send for the hall porter? There seems to be a frog in my bidet.”
I figured I'd learn Welsh so I could impress my friends. I also figured it would be safer than most languages. How many people in Colorado speak Welsh? Not even everyone in WALES speaks Welsh! I could impress my friends and they'd never know if I made a mistake. That's when I found out I have a friend whose husband is a fluent Welsh speaker.
Learn to play a musical instrument – or SING
Suggestions for easier instruments to learn: Ukelele, guitar, bodhran, mountain dulcimer, autoharp, rhythm instruments, and tapping your feet. Don't forget your voice. It's the easiest instrument to access and it's always with you.
Crosswords puzzles, Sudoku, Cryptograms, Scrabble, Clue, Solitaire, there are many choices out there. There are brain puzzle sites on the internet which claim to tell you your “brain age”. If you take these tests, make sure you have a mouse. Some of them are timed and trying to trace your finger around the pad and put things where they need to be can age you quickly. I really prefer games to play with my family, but there is one internet game I am addicted to.
www.wordsqared.com – this is a must for scrabble fanatics, but don't attempt to play it on a notebook computer. You need a large screen.
Read books, write real letters, write stories
Take a holiday from email and write a real letter to someone, in your own handwriting. Write down some of the stories you remember from your childhood or from when your children were small. Write poetry. Write songs. Don't worry about whether or not it's good. That doesn't matter. It's yours.
Have grandchildren who visit and a puppy in the house
This is the best game of all. See if you can remember where you put your cell phone, laptop, purse, glasses, and anything else you put up while the grandkids were visiting and/or the puppy was playing. After several hours of entertaining the above, see if you can make a phone call and speak coherently. Deduct points if you introduce yourself as Gwampa or Gwamma.
After I've done all that, I reward myself: a glass of wine, a hot bath, some good chocolate, and then I forget everything for awhile - guilt free!