February 20, 2005March 20, 2005Meeting Report

March 4, 2005

Alice Jacobs

Use it or lose it:
Brain Exercise for Wellness

Dr. Alice JacobsThis was a fascinating meeting with an enormous amount of enthusiastic audience involvement.

Dr. Alice Jacobs is an educational physiologist and a pioneer in the field of senior learning, having named and developed this new and burgeoning field known as "Sapientagogy." She is a published author, trainer, and educator who advocates for positive aging and lifelong learning. She has worked in both the private and public sectors. In addition to holding membership in the American Society of Aging, she serves on the State of California Department of Health and Human Services Senior Wellness and Prevention Task Force and the Advisory Board of Sierra Emeritus College. Alice is a member of the American Society of Training and Development, and the international professional society, Phi Gamma Sigma.

Contrary to popular myth, and the portrayal of older people by the media, memory can actually get better as we age ... but it requires training. Just like an athlete who trains the body on a regular basis through consistent exercise, memory training should be incorporated into everyone's life on a regular basis.

You may have heard that doing crossword puzzles helps keep the brain active and functioning healthfully. While this is true, there are many other types of mental exercises that stimulate the growth of new brain cells and enhance memory function as we age. In addition to crossword puzzles, you want to do exercises that expand your problem solving skills, critical thinking and creativity.

At the meeting, Dr. Jacobs discussed some of the myths and realities of learning for people over the age of 50.

Dr. Jacobs' neologism, "sapientagogy," completes the lifetime triad of teaching skills—pedagogy (teaching children), andragogy (teaching adults), and now sapientagogy (teaching seniors). Andragogy (also a Jacobs neologism), like pedagogy, is derived from the Greek; sapientagogy is derived from the Latin (sapient, meaning wise or learned, or loosely, wise one or learned one) and the Greek.

Dr. Jacobs considers herself to be a missionary for brain exercise, through which older people can maintain cognitive vitality and, in turn, their independence and longevity. Loss of mental functions, Dr. Jacobs says, is not a necessary consequence of the aging process.

Dr. Jacobs makes her living through the organization of brain exercise programs and is the only person in her field who is financially independent of universities or government. She is also a believer in proper brain nutrition. This means adequate amounts of water and of omega-3 fatty acids, and avoidance of fad diets, especially the Atkins diet, which may deny the brain an adequate supply of glucose.

The audience took a quiz ("Myths and Realities of the 50+ Learner") regarding brain functions, with Dr. Jacobs reviewing the answers and, in so doing, debunking popular myths about brain health and aging. She also had us try some brain exercises that dealt with both "left-brain" and "right brain" functions.

One of Dr. Jacobs' very useful suggestions was that seniors use the term "cognitive cramp" instead of "senior moment," when they are temporarily unable to think of an appropriate name for something.

Report prepared by Wayne Luney, Recorder, and Bill Potts

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