Brain fog increasing? Here’s a plan

Sue Scheible

"Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.”

“We grow too soon old and too late smart.”

Both proverbs pay tribute to the powers of the brain with age. An editor liked to say the first as the newsroom grew younger around him. He was all for shrewdness -- the ability to anticipate problems and make the first move. A high school friend’s mother would quote the second: Wisdom comes with experience.

There’s reason to be optimistic about how the brain changes as we grow older. The news keeps getting better: Time may improve some abilities, such as complex reasoning and empathy. New brain cell growth appears possible with the right stimulation. And while certain lapses in memory can be expected, there are new strategies to stay sharp.

Don’t worry about not remembering names, walking into a room and forgetting why, or getting confused by a ton of new information. By age 50, neuroscientists say, that’s normal.

One recent book that outlines what we can do to clear the brain fog is “Brainpower Game Plan” by the editors of Prevention Magazine. Cynthia Green, an expert in memory fitness training, presents a four-week strategy using brain games, nutrition and exercise.

It is supposed to boost memory and help you “wake up above the neck,” with the onslaught of information and time pressure of most jobs.

The three-pronged approach:

- Brain games: Puzzles that make you work on staying focused, use visual cues and word associations, and look at an object from different perspectives.

- Eating well: Some foods are thought to boost brain power (“Fish feeds your brain”) and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Included are the top 10 antioxidant foods and shopping lists for each week’s menus.

- Exercise: Moving stimulates neuron connections and is thought to help brain cells develop and even grow. There are exercises for walking, yoga, dance, strength training at home, balance.

The strategies are practical; you can pick and choose.

The new positive thinking is already reflected at the community level. In Hingham, Mass., the senior center is running a series, “Maintain Your Brain,” on ways to stay mentally sharp. The leader, Pam Talbot, gives out homework; one assignment was to brush your teeth with the opposite hand.

“That stimulates the brain,” she said.

And at Linden Ponds, a retirement community in Hingham, Mass., nearly 150 different clubs and activities include a Macintosh Users Group learning iChat and other high-tech applications.

For the next generation, retirement living will be like going back to college. They’ll be smart as a whip.

“Brainpower Game Plan” is published by Rodale Press for $25.99. Call 800-848-4735 or visit Prevention Magazine at

Reach Sue Scheible, 617-786-7044, or The Patriot Ledger, Box 699159, Quincy 02269-9159. Read herGood Age blog.