Use it or lose it

The brain is a remarkable, resilient organ.  The more we work it; the stronger it gets.  It has so much potential we don’t get close to using it all.

But then there’s dementia, a disease causing breakdowns in the way a brain works.  Since Alzheimer’s Disease was identified, most Americans have learned to fear it above all others .  Having seen what my Mother went through, I’ll say they should.

I’m fighting off Alzheimer’s by exercising my brain in all the ways I can.  One favorite technique is to study a new language.  What’s happening here is the brain uses fresh methods and makes the brain more nimble.  Anything that makes us think is a plus in the battle versus Alzheimer’s.

When there was a lot of dementia research in play, I decided to do my part.

One of my Doctors hooked me up with the University of Pennsylvania and their full blown Alzheimer’s research programs.  Whenever asked to join a study, I’d say, “Count me in”.  I have annual studies and some much shorter.  My hope is, by the time I may get a visit from dementia, the research being done now will be there to benefit me.

When UPENN asked me to join a Cognitive Comedy Workshop, I thought it may also be fun.

A young visionary named Leah Lawler believed getting senior citizens to perform improvisation comedy would help them use their brains better.  I’m in my second “season” with the comedy workshop, and I can say without pause that Leah has something with her idea.

All in our groups are over sixty with some nearing ninety.  We come from varying segments of the Alzheimer’s world.  My entry was my work as case study subject.  Others are dementia patients or care givers.  Some of our group have multiple qualifiers.

I’ll address the elephant in this post.  Filling a room with old timers doing comedy where some have Alzheimer’s may invite cruelty and ridicule.  Not so.  While we make a lot of mistakes, Leah taught us to cheer rather than to react in hurtful ways.  This helps keep the mood light and cordial.  Because of our work together, I’ve seen team members with Alzheimer’s improve after a few sessions.

Even though we are diverse, our group has grown close.  Much like those in combat do.  We have group names to help with the bonding.  Last year, we were “Leah’s Legends.  This season we are “Cornucopia”.  We even have cutesy nicknames.  I’m know as Papa John.

I’d grade this group study as a massive success that should be mimicked throughout the nation.

And they should name it “The Leah Lawler method”.


Associated reading:

Bill Lyon’s series on his battle with “Al”.

UPENN’s Cognitive Comedy Workshop


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