Never Leave the Playground

by Dave Farrow
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‘Never Leave the Playground’ is a memory-based philosophy on life and fitness. To explain this theory I am going to profile an amazing man Stephen Jepson (age 72.) Although he is in his seventies, Jepson’s mind is getting sharper every day. He is living proof that the brain craves stimulation at every stage of life. His wife said “I’m in my fifties and he runs circles around me!” 

A recent study published in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) showed that the right kind of brain training gives (on average) nine more years of mental clarity to seniors, even if they have a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s.
So what is the “right kind” of mental training?
The secret to amazing mental acuity is…Never leave the playground! In other words, think like a kid!

Elderly people often talk about their struggles with memory. They joke about having “senior moments” and forgetfulness. Other seniors seem to have no trouble at all.  Although further research is necessary, there is one trend that has been clear across the world of neuroscience:
Those who challenge the brain in the right way, strengthen the brain. This principle is called cognitive reserve.  Cognitive reserve tells us that the brain strengthens when we constantly challenge it to learn new things. We are sharper in our senior years and have all sorts of other benefits like better moods, optimistic attitudes, less depression, more energy, more success in life and work.
The list goes on and on….
In short your brain is your greatest tool in life and it needs exercise. Unfortunately most people are doing the wrong exercise.

One component of proper brain training is the concept of “Challenge”

Many people have asked me if doing crosswords or Sudoku will help their memory. The answer is “maybe”.  They will help your memory and brain function if they are new activities you are doing. Once you have reached a high level of proficiency in the game or art you have chosen, then the brain-benefits decrease. Think of it like a child with a new toy. In the beginning, the child is fascinated with the toy. They stare at it. They need to play with it constantly. Once the newness wears off, the toy is often pushed to the side.
This is part of the brain’s natural mechanism to learn about the world. One of the principles of my theory on memory triggers and memory modes is that our brains ‘wake-up’ when they encounter new information. It is a natural survival mechanism. If we don’t feed our brain with new experiences and new ideas on a regular basis there is a negative effect on the brain.
Now that is the theory. Let’s return to my subject, Stephen Jepson.

Never Leave the Playground:

Jepson trained his mind and body by doing different physical and mental challenges and it has paid off. At age 72, Jepson’s mental acuity is sharper than many 20-year-olds!
Most of his challenges involve physical activities like juggling and balancing. These things are great for the brain but in order for this to work long term, you need to add new tricks. If you juggle the same way every day, only your arms get a workout. If you learn new tricks every day, your brain does too.
If you’re like me with a busy personal life, a family and a demanding career, you may be overwhelmed at this point. Likely you can’t find enough time to sleep much less challenge the brain.
If you use memory techniques to tackle the common challenges we encounter every day, you will get the same results. Memorizing a to do list or a few peoples names will continue to challenge the brain because the list always changes and the names are always new. In the process you may discover that memory techniques can make your life easier.
No matter what method you use to challenge your brain remember to have fun with it! That’s what the theory Never Leave the Playground is all about.

Jump into new activities with the same enthusiasm and excitement as a child. Children are not saddled by inhabitations and worry. They encounter new experiences regularly and they accept the mental and physical challenge.

The same process that stimulates a child’s brain will make you a smarter senior.
Now if you will excuse me I want to try to juggle while standing on a ladder…



Dave Farrow

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