Train your brain, And gain as you age

What fun is retiring well-off if you're not all there to enjoy the ride?

Anyone unfortunate to have witnessed the ravages of Alzheimer's certainly understands. But almost all of us have experienced some kind of preview of diminished capacity to come -- glasses "lost" perched right atop our brows; forgetting whether or not you just took that vitamin; mentally misplacing long-burned-in info, like your mom's birthday. It starts earlier than most of us want to admit.

There's good news, in the form of research showing the brain has more plasticity than previously thought. In laymen's terms, our aging brains can likely benefit from regular exercise, to help stave off what was previously written off as inevitable, age-induced, mental atrophy.

Send your brain to the gym by doing fun and challenging stuff like:

- playing chess
- doing Sudoku and crossword puzzles
- balancing your checkbook without a calculator
- learning or regularly playing a musical instrument
- learning a foreign language, or diving deep into some other new-to-you subject
- reading a book while holding it upside down
- playing Bridge
- writing a novel or short story
- adding up a column of stock prices (you gain even if your portfolio loses)
- memorizing numbers in your everyday life – credit cards, etc.

If you're techie at heart, the Times story suggests looking at Nintendo's Brain Age 2 for DS ($19.99); PositScience's Brain Fitness Program ($395); MindFit ($149);;

Just do it. So you can enjoy it, later.

Randy Burnham is a Westport, CT-based clinical psychologist and co-founder of My Next Phase (, a consulting firm expert in non-financial planning products and processes.

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