Once upon a time, Dementia didn’t exist . . .

. . . and since Aloysius Alzheimer wasn’t born until 1864, ‘Alzheimer’s’ didn’t exist either. The old women and men of the tribe were wise. Okay, maybe they didn’t have any teeth or hair left. And maybe, just like today, those wise people would forget things or lose something from time to time. But they kept their minds and bodies active, and that could slow down the aging process considerably. Atrophy can’t happen to tissue that’s in constant use. So, when the younger members of the tribe came to the old wise woman or man for advice—‘How do we keep beetles out of the grain?’ ‘What’s the best cure for heat rash?’—the wise person felt useful. 

Recently, I was part of a community service programme to teach computer skills to seniors. My students, farmers’ wives, were nearly eighty and had never used a keyboard, much less a computer. While I did teach them useful skills, they taught me surprising things as well. Like the basics of milking a cow, herringbone vs. swingover techniques, and what kind of milk can be used for drinking or must be used for cheese. They also taught me a few things about cooking (an activity I’ve never enjoyed) by sharing recipes we found online. They calmly explained things that would normally send me into a panic attack—separating eggs, making whipped cream, choosing the right ingredients for Irish Christmas cake. While learning what ‘Ctrl’ and ‘Alt’ meant, they joked about their dentures or how they wouldn’t be caught dead in a swim suit. Yet, after each computer class, these wise women of the village hurried off to set dancing or yoga or a céile in the neighbouring county.

Did I mention—This was a volunteer job, but I got paid in a currency called ‘insight,’ making the whole thing a wonderful experience I won’t forget.


  1. For some reason, I just kept thinking that everyone in Ireland wore green all the time. Very insightful indeed.

    Loved the post. As you know I deal with Alzheimer's everyday with my work. I have seen first hand how important it is that we use our bodies and minds for as long as we can. There is so much truth to the saying, "If you don't us it, you'll lose it." We have slowed down the progression of this disease by simply working the brain. Great post.

  2. Wonderful post, Fiona -- always a treat every time I visit your lovely blog - great variety - always substantial and insighftul content! Know how busy you are, but am grateful for your keeping this up...
    I agree with TC - as a natural wellness researcher, I'm learning more and more about how our bodies as well as our brains are connected to our guts -- what we eat. The more we can feed it whole food, plant-strong foods - stay away from refined sugars/flours/artificial sweeteners/colors and processed foods in general and of course choose organic whenever possible to bypass the GMOs, our gut functions as it should... Thank you for helping to raise awareness that dementia isn't something we should accept as part of aging - I truly believe that we have a huge control on whether it's even ever created...
    Many blessings for the New Year!