Opinion: Dear Susi Q 


The Delight of Learning New Things, No Matter Our Age

By Lynette Brasfield 

Contrary to what Sherlock Holmes told Dr. Watson in The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone, “I am a brain, Watson. The rest of me is a mere appendix,” Kristen Maahs-Kohlberg, Associate Director of the Community Outreach team at Alzheimer’s Orange County, notes that the food we consume makes a major difference to our mental health. 

Her upcoming presentation, Brain Food: Nutrition for a Healthier Mind, to be held on March 20 at the Susi Q, focuses only on the edible. But of course, it’s also important to feed fresh information to our little grey cells. Sherlock had a point.

It’s amazing the new things that we learn even into our sixties and beyond. Oh, and the things we have to unlearn. 

For example, I was conned by books I read in kindergarten into thinking that when the sun went down, birds snuggled down into their nests for a good night’s sleep, waking in the morning to a brand-new day – and, if they were up early enough, enjoyed the pleasures of nice juicy worms.

Come to find out – only in the last few weeks! – that no, the only time birds sleep in nests is when they sit on their eggs or keep their chicks warm. At night, they sleep in trees or bushes or wherever they feel safest. 

Maybe – in fact, I’m pretty sure – most of you already knew that! I’m ashamed to admit that I really didn’t. Maybe you have some similar experiences, though?

I mean, did you know that the Great Wall of China isn’t visible from space? That St. Patrick was born in Scotland, not Ireland?

I’m not embarrassed that I didn’t know why the Michelin Guide is called the Michelin Guide, but I do wonder why I hadn’t been puzzled before – after all, the Michelin logo, literally a roly-poly figure with several spare tires, hardly reflects the image of a fine diner.

According to the Michelin website, it all started in 1889 when brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin founded their world-famous tire company. To help motorists develop their trips – thereby boosting car and tire sales – the brothers produced a small red guide filled with handy information for travelers, such as maps, information on how to change a tire, and where to fill up with fuel. 

Eventually, that morphed into a guidebook for the finest restaurants and their star rating system.

Who knew? I didn’t.

And here’s a fact that really stunned me. This, from 23andMe: Researchers identified one genetic marker associated with feeling rage at the sound of other people chewing. Your genetic variants at this marker are associated with about average odds of having this trait.

I have it, all right. Of course, it depends on who is chewing and what they’re chewing. But how amazing that such a tendency is genetically predictable.

Regardless – eat those blueberries, devour that salmon, and crunch those nuts (just when I’m not around). And remember, you don’t have to read an encyclopedia to learn new facts and stimulate those synapses. Instead, I strongly recommend joining book, bridge, and mahjong clubs and discussion groups – there are a number of opportunities at the Susi Q to keep your brain active and nourished. Just check out the programs and classes by visiting www.thesusiq.org. See you at the Susi Q!

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