Use It Or Lose It

Steve Farmer — 13 January 2014

Ever noticed how when you reach a certain age you suddenly cease to take the grey matter between your ears for granted?

I’d say this doubt sets in anywhere from about 50 onwards, depending on the individual. You begin to wonder if the old memory is slipping a bit, you can’t do the quick, mental arithmetic you once did, or you struggle (more than you once would have) to learn a new skill. In most cases our worries are unfounded, or at least our losses are small enough not to interfere with the lives we live — for now, anyway.

But those doubts can often lead to worry about the dreaded “D” word — dementia. It’s a terrible disease that, unfortunately, is likely to afflict a fair proportion of the population, thanks to the large number of ageing baby boomers.

Fortunately there seems to be lots of research into brain function these days, with increasing suggestions on ways to combat, slow, or even repair our mental decline. Some of those suggestions include doing new things, exploring new places, meeting new people, learning new skills and regular exercise.

Now, considering all those suggestions, tell me which group of people should be the sharpest of the lot. Who are actually living their lives (probably without even thinking about it) around those very principles that experts say have the potential to keep us sharper and active as we age.

That’s right — it’s us RVers, caravanners and travellers. Yep, I reckon we should have the edge over the rest of the population. Maybe the lifestyle we enjoy now could improve the lifestyle we will enjoy well into the future.

Think about life on the open road. There’s constant mental stimulation as we visit new places. We learn about the history and unique attractions of the towns and regions through which we travel. It’s something we would never have done if we had stayed at home.

New activities are truly many and varied — from snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef to sailing a yacht on Sydney Harbour, catching a Snowy Mountain trout or riding a camel in Broome to name just a few.

Learning a new skill? How about backing a van, reading a GPS, repairing a leak in the caravan or navigating your way through a major city or across the emptiness of the outback. In this day and age you could probably complete an online course in just about anything no matter where you might be in Australia.

Exercise is also part and parcel of life on the road. Exploring new towns on foot, hiking to lookouts, paddling a canoe, or swimming in remote waterholes will keep the heart pumping and the brain healthy.

And, finally, there are the people you meet along the way. Happy hours are about far more than a cold drink and a bit of a chin wag. They’re your opportunity to meet and be stimulated by an array of characters from a huge variety of backgrounds. Chances, are some will end up being lifelong friends.


YOUR SAY: Personally, I feel all those neurons firing on all cylinders when I visit an exciting new place. How about you? Do you feel “fired up” when you’re on the road? Does the lifestyle you’ve chosen (whether it’s for a week, a year or a lifetime) keep you sharper and more mentally active? What do you do while you’re on the wallaby to satisfy the old axiom of “use it or lose it”? Do you do crosswords or have a hobby? Share your secrets for a healthy brain below.


Note: The above are general observations by an unqualified person. If you have any concerns about your health please contact your health professional.


travel healthy brain dementia