This picture only hints at the joy of Connections participant Rebecca (second from right) and her priceless original artwork, created at Memory Matters under the gentle guidance of our artist-in-residence Art Cornell (second from left). Also pictured here are Program Director Cathee Stegall (far right) and Volunteer Daisy.

We are nearing the end of November, a month in which the growing Memory Matters family has taken time to remember lives touch by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. November being the Alzheimer’s  Disease and Family Caregivers Awareness Month. We held a candlelit service one evening at Memory Matters program center, we spoke from a church  pulpit, offered prayers, and attended ministry fairs and other awareness sessions at local churches from Hilton Head to Okatie. It was a time of reflection and remembrance, but we also looked forward with hope for the day when these so far incurable diseases will be isolated, and when scientific evidence will permit the prescribed use of interventions that will protect humankind from the disease.

We try to imagine anew what life would be like and, in our own truly unique way, our not-for-profit organization is charting a course that embraces the the most up-to-date research on brain health. We are not content to wait for the cure! We are determined to help educate our community with the most appropriate brain health lifestyle ideas based on solid research by US and International Universities.

Sir Winston Churchill who, among many remarkable achievements, wrote the “History of the English Speaking Peoples”, once remarked that in order to plan ahead, a wise man should read and study history and learn! So I am writing this both as a reflection of the past and a look to the future.

Two years ago we published a book (available from Memory Matters) entitled “Meet Me Where I Am”. It is a lovely “coffee table” book dedicated to our Caregivers and their loved ones who have experienced the loss of memory and cognitive decline. It combines touching words of sadness with humor and hope. It is especially relevant for those on the “longest journey”. One of the contributors is Art Cornell who later became our terrific “Artist in Residence”. Art is not only an acclaimed artist but also a poet, and here is one of his poems from the book which I have been reflecting  upon:

Love Complete by Art Cornell

On days such as this,

sky-piercing blue,

While wisps float;

Love is the whole and

more than all, much more.


Shared moments—

Surf crashing, rays heating,

Sand clinging—

Futures to dream, capsules of

Time remembered,

Looking at the music of

our lives,

And love is the whole

and more than all,

much more.


Give me your hand once

More before this day’s

night begins.

Your gentle eyes bright, a

touch soft, your voice

my soul vibrates,

And love is the whole

and more than all,

much more.

I have been privileged to watch Art empowering our Connections class participants with truly remarkable results. Our own Senior Program Director and Memory Care Specialist – Cathee Stegall is an amazing artist too and she wrote this in the book I have earlier refered  to:

“We are all born with natural abilities for creativity and art. Often as we “grow up” we lose sight of our creative, artisitic selves. For the person with dementia, finding that creative self again can be life changing. For the Caregiver it can mean moments of fun and joy”.

Cathee went on to explain that art gives a voice to those with dementia. As dementia progresses, cognitive abilities decline, making it a struggle to complete sentences and find words, express emotions. Through art therapy our Connections class participants receive the gift of self expression, an unheard voice to their emotions, the opportunity for success, accomplishment, and joy.

I have personally witnessed our class members “coming alive” tinged with a sense of serenity that is amazing to experience. Through the eyes of this volunteer I have witnessed change. A person lacking personal direction and motivation, or an agitated person, or even a listless person: I have seen them become calm and relaxed and more at peace with themselves.

Art Cornell and Cathee are both modest people but as I reflect on 2017’s successes, their art therapy contribution has been quite notable.


The Connections class and Compass program will continue to be developed. Our art, music, yoga therapies and other socialization themes will be refined to reflect the results from new research studies, and we will continue to offer unparalleled care and counseling for the caregiver.

With  research specialists such as Dr Rudolph Tanzi successfully pioneering techniques to identify the genes that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, there is hope of a cure in our children’s lifetime. There is more hope when leading philanthropists such as Bill Gates add their time, talent and treasure to the battle. I can imagine success in the future, as there has been with heart disease and some cancers.

Here in the Lowcountry I can easily imagine the dynamic and skilled Memory Matters team continuing to educate the community at large on the benefits of certain lifestyle interventions that will enhance brain health. In fact I expect this work will gather pace over the next few years.

So as I reflect and imagine anew I conclude that I’m delighted and privileged to be a Memory Matters volunteer!

If you know someone who would benefit from our help please introduce them or give them our telephone number 1843 842 6688. Call the same number for a confidential Memory screening or if you need information on our brain health educational programs.



If a picture paints a thousand words,
then why can’t I paint you?
The words would never show,
the you I’ve come to know . . .

David Gates – Bread

David Gates beautiful, expressive and memorable song entitled “If” is the prelude to the second class in Cathee’s August program with the theme being: “Words“.

Last week our Connections class focused on “words”, and the way in which different areas of the brain interpret words. For example the word “saw” can be understood as to having seen something, or to have met with a person, or it could be a tool, or someone in the process of cutting up a log. Different compartments of the brain view these words in different contexts.

This week Cathee led the class further and we debated whether a picture is more descriptive and memorable than words alone. To assist with the debate (and a good debate it was!), the Club members first were asked to visualize “the sun” and write down as many associated words as possible. Later they were asked to describe “love” in as many words as possible.

Here is a selection of our Club members really thoughtful written responses. Notice the frequent connections between “Sun” and “Love”.

Cathee later asked the Club members to draw “the sun” and “love”. Suffice to say the pictorial representations varied, and we discussed this too.

The Sun Love
Beauty Marriage
Burning Happiness
You are my sunshine (song) Everywhere
Radiance True love
Powerful Deep
Light for life Can’t live without it
Ultimate source of energy Family
Source of heat, light and comfort Devotion
A blinding and inpenetrable ball of fire. A warm and wonderful feeling when we are chilled.  In a song it could be a way of expressing a feeling of love and happiness Love is a feeling of closeness, of sharing and being supportive. Of wanting to share your life with someone. Of holding on to a moment, holding on to a memory.
Extinguishable energy of life Intangible object that transforms us all in ways that would seem virtually impossible to describe in natural terms
My dog Love is feeling of comfort and assurance
Son of God Peace
Power undefined Forgiving
Engulfed energy All you need is love (song!)
Sun and love God is love
Heat and warmth Love makes the world go round

The general consensus conclusion was that we needed both words and pictures to describe things, to educate, to express emotions and to represent our vision.

An example was given of the way the Italian church employed famous Renaissance artists such as Cimabue and Giotto in the 13th and 14th centuries and later, in the 15th century and 16th centuries, da Vinci and Michelangelo, produced sculptures, oil paintings on canvas, and frescoes on ceilings and walls, dipicting stories from the Bible or about a Saint.

The frescoes in the Upper Basilica in the Cathedral of St. Francis in Assisi are a classic early example. Giotto used 28 huge frescoes to describe the life of St Francis. For those who already knew the story it was easy to interpret the paintings but for those illiterate people in medievel times (and there were many), the Priest would use the paintings to describe the events in St. Francis life in pictures and words. It is easy to stand transfixed before these masterpieces and delve into their meaning, using words of your own. Then there is da Vinci’s most famous mural of the Last Supper in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan; and the greatest and most influential frescoes in the history of Western Art created by Michelangelo: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and The Last Judgment on its altar wall.

From these examples we learned of the power and influence of art and pictorial story telling,  but concluded that without the original words they would not have had such a profound impact on mankind.


Please share this if you believe it would help someone.

For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test, call 

1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.

Vision: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness.

Mission: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals, care-givers in the Low Country community.


IMG_1304Source of image and video: Nature – International weekly journal of science 

Another great “Brain Day”!

I particularly like to write about fun and rewarding happenings in our Connections program. Last Thursday provided us all, Club members and volunteers alike, with fascinating new information as to how our amazing brain works, and how it handles “words”.

Here is a paragraph written by one of the Club members incorporating eight words that we were all given to use, namely GO, NIGHT, DREAM, SUMMER, BIG, BUTTERFLY GARDEN, WIND:

One summer night I had a dream that I was outside in my Mother’s flower garden. I looked over and there was a big Monarch butterfly making its rounds to every flower. All  of a sudden a big wind came up and the butterfly had to go on its way so it wouldn’t get hurt.

I should add that I have faithfully copied this gentleman’s written word including his punctuation!

Here is a second paragraph from a lady Club member:

It was a black summer night. I was walking through the garden and saw a big beautiful butterfly. I asked the butterfly, “what are you doing out at night? Wait a minute, is this a dream? Butterflies don’t fly at night”! Said the butterfly “Well I am a very special butterfly and it’s a nice night to go out because there is no wind. But I’m tired now, so let’s both go back to our dreams”.

Again I have included the author’s precise punctuation.

My abiding recollection from days like these is the sheer effort that the Club members make to contribute, and to read and/or discuss their own ideas.

Cathee Stegall, our Program Director and Memory Care Specialist kept us fully engaged for all five hours, describing in easily understood terms the science of neuroplasticity. Even though the brain is made up of different regions, each associated with different functions such as reasoning, emotion and balance, Cathee explained that there is no one region of the brain that processes and stores all the words and concepts in our vocabulary.

For example if you hear the word “top”, a small area of the brain called the middle frontal gyrus will light up in recognition. However other regions of the brain will also light up depending on the context in which the word is used. So think of the brain as an atlas where one person might think of the word “top” as a peak, others a toy, or another an exam result. In each case the region of the brain responding to the word might be different. The brain really is so smart. It uses neurons in just about every pocket and fold to organize the meaning of words into logical groups. So words like “Mother”, “Father” and “family” are in one group area and next door you might find “home”, “owner” and “tenant”.

Here is an interesting brief explanatory video. The Brain Dictionary.

Last Thursday at Connections we had a lot of fun interpreting words in different ways. If you want to experience interaction and engagement in practice, participate in a Connections class! As usual this group of people had some surprisingly lateral thoughts! They all attend our Connections program to stretch their minds, and keep them as young as possible. I have known some Club members now for over two and  a half years. They joined long before I started volunteering, and they and their care givers have all have benefited from their weekly or twice weekly (Tuesday and Thursday) brain exercise in our failure free environment. There is clear evidence to show that brain wellness programs can succeed in combating symptoms of an early diagnosis of dementia, mild memory loss or mild cognitive impairment.

Cathee is currently developing new, and exciting additions to our popular Brain Boosters program and receiving much appreciated help and guidance from Memory Matters friend and contributor, Dr. Lisa Schrott (Associate Pastor of Pastoral Care at the Hilton Head Island First Presbyterian church) herself an expert in neuroplasticity. Cathee also benefits from her close colleagues input, all who have contributed to and/or led a Brain Boosters program. So I recognize here, Karen, Ashley, and Melissa too.

Remember we have a Brain Boosters class starting on September 18th at Memory Matters facility on Hilton Head Island, and another commencing on September 21st at Hampton Lake in Bluffton. Both run for 8 sessions for two hours on the same day each week. The cost is only $199 for all 8 sessions. More details can be found on our website or at the end of this blog.

As my readers know, we often lapse into song and on this occasion the key words I mentioned earlier led to impromptu renditions of Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party” and the Everly Brothers “Dream”. Later we sang “Words” by the Bee Gees.

Talk in everlasting words
And dedicate them all to me
And I will give you all my life
I’m here if you should call to me

You think that I don’t even mean
A single word I say

It’s only words, and words are all I have
To take your heart away

For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test,

1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.

Vision: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness.

Mission: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals, care-givers in the Low Country community.



Over the past year or so I have enthused about healthy physical exercise, the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, brain aerobics and countless other ideas that relate to “Brain Wellness”. This blog is about boredom!

Before anyone concludes that Volunteer Mike has completely lost the plot or is in need of urgent medical attention,  let me explain that our enterprising Executive Director – Sheila Strand – encouraged me to read an article from Maria Shriver last Sunday.  I did read the article all the way through and thought I would share with you the theme and my own conclusions.

Maria starts by saying  “Let’s face it. Boredom has a bad rap”.

Like all of us, she grew up not wanting to be bored and tried always to be two steps ahead of the curve, by studying, reading, communicating with the human race and working hard. In fact if you read her Sunday Paper you can conclude that she is an energetic and “driven person”.

“Nothing worse than being bored,” I’d tell myself and my children.

Then she challenged her beliefs about boredom and started longing for moments of silence when she could take stock of what she was doing and where she was going.  Maria decided to seek time or space for daydreaming and creativity.

She goes on to say : “I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. Why? Because I see too many of us running through life with no time to think. No time to reflect. No time to be creative. No time to check ourselves. No time to get to know our evolving selves. No time to ask, “Am I doing what I want to do? Am I living aligned with who I am? Or, am I living in fear? Am I just running around because I’m too afraid to slow down and take a break?”

As she started contemplating boredom and her own desire for it, Maria started seeing books about its benefits everywhere. “I started reading articles warning us that we lose boredom at our own peril—as individuals, and as a culture. I started reading essays written by wise people who took the time to be bored, and discovered that they learned a lot about life, love and themselves in the process”.

Hmm! It makes you think. Would you not agree?

As avid readers of trivia know there is a day designated to  most things. E.g, hamburger day, national nudity day, hug a tree day and so on. In July we have “anti-boredom day”!

So, rather than take boredom at face value, turn it around and use peace, silence, tranquility in a purposeful way. Use it to create positive thoughts and quell the automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) that virtually every human being suffers from to the detriment of their brain health. It is far better to emphasize the positive and let go the negatives. Trash them!

Every time you have a negative, angry or stressful thought you release a powerful chemical called cortisol that can actually shrink the brain and make your body feel bad. Conversely every time you have a positive, creative or kind thought your brain releases chemicals to make your body feel good and cools the deep limbic system. When we use boredom purposefully we talk to ourselves and straighten out the ANTS.

I should add here as a reminder that Memory Matters runs a great program called Brain Boosters where you learn much more about the brain, its health and ways to prolong its normal life. If you haven’t signed up yet……..believe me it is worth doing so, particularly if you believe you have a normal healthy brain! We have a class starting on September 18th at Memory Matters facility on Hilton Head Island, and another commencing on September 21st at Hampton Lake in Bluffton. Both run for 8 sessions for two hours on the same day each week. The cost is only $199 for all 8 sessions. More details can be found on our website or at the end of this blog.

The conclusion to the Maria Shriver story is that we need to spend time with ourselves. Yes, you!

Look at the scenery surrounding our beautiful Lowcountry, paddle in the ocean, relax in a kayak and study the native birds, study the stars at night and imagine a place far far away where time stands still, but where it is possible to create something new that will positively impact you, your family and those in your community. Start anew perhaps. Listen to music, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and The Ode To Joy comes to mind as I write, and books that stretch the mind. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan perhaps with its dream sequence? Relax and listen to a TED talk and be prepared to take action of your own. I gave a couple of examples in a recent blog. Paint, or just look at art, it too can be very calming.

Some might refer to this use of ” boredom” as meditation.  There is no doubt that meditation is extremely calming and at Memory Matters we experience and enjoy meditation every week in our Connections program and at other times with guest speakers.

I read a simple and useful article in the New York Times on meditation which covers the basics. Please read here  NYT How To Meditate. For more in depth information on meditation try reading Deepak Chopra’s work.

In summary, it’s good to be bored in a positive way. It gives you time to be kind to yourself and to recognize that there are so many good things that you do and perhaps can do in the future. Last week I wrote about our Connections Club Members who thoughtfully gave advice to self when they were aged ten years old. There were some profound and wise words. I then challenged my readers to do the same and consider what advice they as adults would give to themselves as ten year olds. Among the answers was one from a lady who is on our Board of Directors. Clearly she found time and space to be bored (!) and concluded:  “Be able to be alone with yourself…you get to know YOU better!”

I encourage my readers to write back and tell me how they use “boredom” to good effect. I will share the results with our Memory Care Specialists.


For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test, 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.

Vision: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness.

Mission: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals, care-givers in the Low Country community.


















I’m 69 years old (yes I admit it) although my Grandkids probably think I’m older than that, or “really old”! I hope that along the way I have become a little wiser than I was as a pre- teenage kid, but sometimes my mind wanders back to when I was ten years old.  I remember happy times playing cricket or soccer with my Dad or putting 18 holes in the local park. I think back to school and the friends that I made, the games we played and the best teacher in the world. Her name was Mrs. Packham and I trusted her implicitly.

But with the benefit of wisdom would I have acted differently? Would I have made different choices or added to my selection? What difference would the onset of 59 extra years have made if I knew then what I know now?

The French writer- philosopher – Honore de Balzac – concluded  “Because wisdom cannot be told”! He was quoted in a 1940 Harvard Alumni Bulletin with this conclusion as its title. Balzac actually wrote” “So he had grown rich at last, and thought to transmit to his only son all the cut and dried experience which he himself had purchased at the price of his lost illusions; a noble last illusion of age”.

So if, with wisdom, I was able to go back in time and write a letter to myself when I was age ten, would I be able to impart my 69 years of wisdom to myself in order that I might live my life over differently?

This question is the very same one that Cathee, our Memory Care Specialist posed to our Connections  Club last Thursday. The answers the Club members wrote varied from straightforward to touching and, from ingenious to profound.

In these blogs I have often challenged my readers to come and visit Memory Matters and learn how to be a volunteer in our Memory Care center and to be rewarded for taking the time and sharing their talent and kindness of human spirit. While we offer critical help to caregivers and their loved ones experiencing issues with dementia our role in the Lowcountry community is significantly broader. We optimize brain wellness! Our mission is to ensure that everyone who enters our facility or engages anywhere with our Memory Care Specialists and trained volunteers, enjoys a motivational and exhilarating “brain day”. 

Typically our Connections club members have been diagnosed with an early indication of dementia or simply mild cognitive impairment or mild memory loss. Our job is to exercise the 3lbs of “squidgy” muscle that is their brain, to stretch it, and stimulate its processing power. This we do in a failure-free environment with a wide variety of programs that include problem solving, communication and questions that require in-depth thought. Our members achieve this week after week, but some weeks yield  exceptional results, which is why I want share with you the letters our Club members wrote to themselves back in the the time they were ten years old.

We started the class by discussing some examples. These included:

  • Forget about being the best at everything.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff
  • Treat cruelty with kindness
  • Laugh at yourself.

Then with this little background our Connections Club members went to work and I am going to share their thoughts and words verbatim. I am incredibly proud of these people with their amazing brains and zeal to make the most of their lives for many, many years to come. I am more than proud to be one of their friends. There is no thought of sitting around on a couch watching TV, or reflecting on nothing. These folk are pro-active!

Here are their messages to themselves as a ten year old (not in any particular order and I have not included duplicates):

  1. Be at peace with others -they have problems of their own.
  2. Show loyalty to your friends and family.
  3. Listen to advice from teachers and parents.
  4. Study history of those who have succeeded at some task.
  5. See how those who succeeded stayed with their beliefs.
  6. Try kindness to others. It is productive.
  7. Whistle while you work. It’s attitude that is important.
  8. Learn from your friends.
  9. Make more friends.
  10. Take up a hobby.
  11. Be a friend to someone.
  12. Hug more.
  13. Kiss more.
  14. Climb trees.
  15. Trust yourself.
  16. Walk more.
  17. Wear sun block.
  18. Adapt yourself wherever you go.
  19. Follow your dreams.
  20. Try new foods.
  21. Learn something new each day.
  22. Be kind to others.
  23. Speak kindly.
  24. Have a hobby.
  25. Be good to animals.
  26. Read more.
  27. Learn to dance.
  28. Read and study the Bible more.
  29. Read widely.
  30. Buy more stocks.
  31. Smile more.
  32. Study
  33. Love
  34. Sing
  35. Tell your parents you love them.
  36. At age ten not passing an exam is NOT a failure.
  37. Pray more.
  38. Learn a second language.
  39. Learn a musical instrument if you are given the chance.
  40. Buy Apple, Google and IBM stock.
  41. Save money.
  42. Mind your own business.
  43. Being an only child is not all bad.
  44. Listen more and talk less.
  45. Wish everybody a great day!
  46. Tell someone you love them.
  47. Hug your children.
  48. Fill your car with gas. Don’t let it run empty.
  49. Call your family.
  50. Take someone to lunch.
  51. Pay your bills.
  52. Write thank you notes.
  53. Clean up NJ politics!
  54. Tell Mom how great she is.
  55. Love your sister (and brother)
  56. Be nice to Joe F.
  57. Have better manners.
  58. Learn to cook.
  59. Help with multiplication tables.
  60. Make money through work -there is no free lunch.
  61. Babysit your little sister.
  62. Have more fun.
  63. Listen to your Mom and Dad. They want the best for you .Tell them you love them.
  64. Play fair – do NOT cheat.
  65. Make friends with boys and girls.
  66. Enjoy your summer play and sports. It builds character.
  67. Be gracious. Don’t be a sore loser.
  68. Dream Set some goals.
  69. Be polite to your teachers, clergy, and older family members.
  70. Study what others need!
  71. Love your neighbor as yourself.
  72. Love the Lord.
  73. Work hard.
  74. Stick with learning the piano.
  75. Tell Bill M. to stop beating up that other boy.
  76. Eat less.
  77. Have fun!
  78. Listen to music.
  79. Tell good stories.
  80. Attitude is important.
  81. Learn to love yourself.

Creating the environment in which intelligent people can exercise and stimulate their brain is something we do every day. Is it always easy and straightforward to get these fine people to open up their hearts and minds? No! However, with perseverance, gentle persuasion and trained memory care techniques and experience the results are often beyond our expectations. This was a case in point. The 81 one-line thoughts they wrote last week were carefully solicited and thoughtfully composed by our Club members.

Think about it yourself. Write down the top five things you would want to tell yourself when you were ten years old. Be honest with yourself and be brave! Our Connections Club members were so.

If any of my readers would like to share their own story that we can in turn share with our Club members to further engage them, then please comment via our website at http://www.memory-matters.org, or to volunteermike.com.

Meanwhile have a great brain day!


For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test,  call 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.

Vision: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness.

Mission: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals, care-givers in the Low Country community.




Now this looks like exercise!

This is another blog in my series on “Brain Health”. Last week we studied a first class up-to-date university research program into the benefits of olive oil, arguably the most important ingredient in the Mediterranean lifestyle and diet. We shared a cooking and dining experience at Sun City, we listed all the principal ingredients and, we took an explicit look at what this means to someone who desires to live a southern Mediterranean lifestyle here in the Lowcountry. As in previous blogs on this subject, my writing was based upon the real life experience of my brother-in-law Davide who lives the southern Italian lifestyle to the full extent. To be with him and experience simple, rustic, inviting and healthy food is a joy in life. Davide provides us with his wisdom based upon his own living reality.

In addition to eating fabulous food my friend Davide believes in physical exercise too! Good nutrition coupled with moderate physical exercise and good brain exercise are the three vital elements to improved health and minimizing the risk of heart disease and/or dementia.

So let’s take a look at physical exercise.


Walking for exercise may become increasingly important as we age and our risk for dementia and other brain disorders increases. It can even help reverse the effects of aging. A study published  in the Annals of Neurology found that the 69 participants ages 55–88 who who met the exercise guidelines set by the American Heart Association showed a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

To improve your cognition even more, and in a safe controlled environment, try walking backward! Be “faster on your feet” and in your amazing brain!


Neal D. Barnard is an American doctor, author, clinical researcher, and founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. As of 2015, he is an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He founded the Barnard Medical Center in 2016.

In his TED talk, Dr. Neil Barnard gives simple to follow and practical ways we can avoid dementia, including Alzheimer’s. He speaks to the power of food and how the right food can offset or negate the slow build up of brain disease. He emphasizes the need to eat the right foods to get the correct vitamin balance as opposed to buying vitamins over the counter which can limit their effectiveness. However he also emphasizes the need for us to walk briskly three times per week. He suggests starting with brisk ten minute walks and building up to three forty minutes per outing.

Why? Dr. Barnard points to important research completed by the University of Illinois  where 120 adults were brought in and given controlled memory tests and brain scans to establish a base line. Then the adults were asked undertake regular exercise. After one year the same 120 adults received a new memory test and brain scan.

Guess what! In each case their memory had improved and instead of normal aging shrinkage of the hippocampus, (the vital part of the brain that is the “seat of memory”) it had increased in size! Wow!


This book has recently been published in Britain and will become available in the US later this year. Not surprisingly the author has reached similar conclusions:

He quotes a University of Pittsburg study of 120 people over the age of 67 and had them perform moderate aerobic exercise for three days a week. Strikingly, a follow up MRI scan revealed that those who exercised netted a 2% increase in the size of their hippocampus. This compares with an average 1.5% reduction in size for this  age group! The middleman in this victory was the BDNF protein (brain derived neurotrophic factor) which is known to create the birth of new neurons and synapses throughout the entire nervous system. The author also points to similar research at the University of Sussex, England, where a systematic review of the effect of moderate exercise yielded positive results in people already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The exercise ranged from 30 minutes of walking four times a week for fifteen weeks, to 30 minutes of vigorous calisthenics every day for twelve weeks. For those who were of the age where walking is a chore, they found even gentle Tai Chi was worthwhile.

The fact that low and high intensity exercise brought improvement speaks volumes.

The conclusion was “follow a Mediterranean diet, exercise, avoid stress, stimulate your mind and ……sleep well”.


On June 26th this year Time magazine reported about the study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. They found that people who did more moderate intensity physical activity were more likely to have healthy patterns of of glucose metabolism in their brains – a sign of healthy brain activity. The authors found that large doses of high-intensity exercise may be needed to offer the benefits of a “modest increase” in moderate activity, suggesting that you don’t have to exercise in the extreme to benefit your brain!


From 2000 to 2012, indeed, it’s estimated that about 99% of all newly developed “dementia drugs” failed to pass their clinical trials. For all the news headlines about “a cure for Alzheimer’s”, this goal remains fugitive.


IMG_0133 We are certainly NOT without hope! It has been proven that nutritious food and physical exercise does make a positive difference to our long term cognitive ability. We have it in our own hands to help ourselves, our children and grandchildren.

At Memory Matters our vision is to optimize Brain Wellness and our mission  to achieve this vision is quickly moving forward.

To find out more, please call us at 1843 842 6688 and make an appointment to come and see us. We are your Lowcountry memory care resource with 20 years of experience, and care. You can also visit our website which describes all the programs and events at our not-for-profit organization, www.memory-matters.org, or find up to the minute information on our business Facebook page.

Thank you so much for reading this blog!

Enjoy eating well and your moderate exercise, and please do exercise your amazing brain!

For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test,  call 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.

Vision: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness.

Mission: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals, care-givers in the Low Country community.




“A man paints with his brain and not with his hands.”
― Michelangelo Buonarroti

Hickory DaiquiriThere are many local people and businesses that generously give of their time, talent or treasure to support the work we do for Brain Wellness and Memory Care Services. Some give all three and Amos Hummell is one of those.

I have previously written about our artist in residence – Art Cornell – who does an amazing job for us in the Memory Care Center, and I have written about how music and art play a large role in “exercising the brain” and improving brain wellness and the sense of overall well being.

Amos is the husband of Lynne Cope Hummell who herself did such a stellar job in editing our coffee table book “Meet Me Where I Am”, an uplifting collection of creative expressions centered on our caregivers. Those of us who have been privileged to meet Amos know he is special! A warm hearted and quietly spoken man with a mischievous twinkle in the eyes that define the incredible gift of expressive talent that he embraces in life.

As my readers know we have many kind people who “volunteer” for Memory Matters and every now and then I give them a “shout-out”. This is an unreserved shout-out for Amos Hummell!

The story starts with Amos offering to produce a painting “live” for us at our signature gala back in April. It takes a certain courage to produce a large format painting of the quality that Amos achieved while surrounded by nearly 250 guests, and be able to offer it for live auction there and then! Needless to say the beautiful painting was finished and after a tense and exciting bidding “war” was purchased by our own Board member Brad Wilson on behalf of Charter One Realty. It now hangs prominently in Brad’s office. In the photograph below is the painting with Amos and a justifiably proud Brad. “The Missing Poissons”.

MM 4

For those of you who don’t know Amos yet you will have an opportunity very shortly to do so . His new collection “Five O’Clock Somewhere” will take place shortly at the Arts Center – July 7-29, 2017
Hosted by the Art League of Hilton Head,
in The Walter Greer Gallery
Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, 14 Shelter Cove Ln, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928

I encourage you to go and view the paintings like the signature Hickory Daiquiri Dock at the beginning of this blog and others that follow. There will be amusing poems and limericks too describing the art you will see before your eyes.

Hummell Full Tilt

Amos has lived on Hilton Head Island for 36 years. His artistic career began in the 1990’s when he discovered the art of polymer bead making and for several years was known locally as “the Bead Man”.  Then he started painting signs, often on tin. Soon he was inspired to paint on many different materials using a bright, vivid palette with vibrant colors, characters and experiences of the Lowcountry. His work is best described as non-conventional and with tremendous creative expression. It has also been described a type of “Folk Art” and has its roots in African and Jamaican imagery.

His earlier work can still be seen at Marleys Island Seafood Grille in Park Plaza.

Amos happily described to me the way in which he develops a piece of art and anticipates the mind of the viewer. For example in the “Missing Poissons” painting produced for our gala he could imagine the viewer discovering more hidden detail with each martini they consumed! That’s five o’clock somewhere! 

Following the art show at the Greer Gallery Amos has plenty of plans to further his career including producing a coffee table book.

When you meet with Amos you are left with no mis-understating as to the genius of his expression. His mind is alive with ideas and just like Michelangelo his brain is driving his artistry.

Hummell The Landing

Amos is especially keen on involving children in the creation of their own on-stage art. He continues to be a strong advocate of arts education, and has supported the Island School Council for the Arts as a participant in “An Evening of the Arts” for two decades.

He has come a long way from his first family reunion here on Hilton Head Island back in 1965 when he used a bicycle to get around the sandy tracks on what then looked more like Hunting Island than that we know today. He loved the place then and is happy to have called it home for so many years.

You can contact Amos via his web site at http://www.hummellstudios.com or by email to hummellstudios@gmail.com.


For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test, please call 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.

Vision: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness

Mission: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals, care-givers in the Low Country community










“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
It’s easy”.

John Lennon – The Beatles – from “All You Need is Love”

I have some really good news! Please study the content of this blog. The story makes  good and encouraging reading!

Last week I posted a blog entitled “The Sounds of Music” featuring our musicians, a visiting Welsh singer and the Sun City Dulcimers. Singing in a “lead” role with the Dulcimers was one of our Club Members who performed an inspirational rendition of Amazing Grace.  At the same time I also posted, on Memory Matters Business Facebook page, a video of this gentleman singing with his heart, mind and voice!

Together with my friends at Memory Matters I was gratified to note that together the two posts reached over 8000 people on Facebook in just seven days. Having written over fifty blogs in the past year it is notable that our readers often express especial interest in our description of the therapeutic benefits of music.

Now let’s take this a step further with exciting news of a new and relatively simple and inexpensive approach using music to help caregivers, Memory Care Specialists, and dementia sufferers everywhere!

A study by researchers at Brown University in Rhode Island was published on May 10th, 2017 describing how they found that individual music playlists had a calming or pleasurable effect on Care Home residents.  Caregivers and Memory Care Specialists, including our own, can look to the results of the first national study to compare key outcomes in homes that implemented an individualized music program called MUSIC & MEMORY with similar homes that did not adopt the program. A total of 98 care homes used the program called Music and Memory which trains care workers to create music playlists for residents based on their personal history and music preferences. Residents’ mood, behavior and their use of anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic medication  were all recorded at the beginning of the study and at the end, with care homes reporting an improvement in residents behavior and less need for medication.

In addition to the Brown Study that you can read via my link I can report that the British  national Care Home organization that helps to regulate, advise and provide quality standards, has already ‘jumped on’ the Brown study this month and quickly provided the following interesting and practical report from its own focussed work. The British organization is CareHome.co.uk 

Suffice to say, Memory Matters will be following up too!

“Time consuming but worth it!

It can be time consuming for care workers (caregivers or Memory Care Specialists) to find out each resident’s favourite music. However Orii McDermott, senior research fellow at Nottingham University, believes it improves their quality of life so it is “time well spent in the long run”.

Balhousie Care Group in Scotland has trained up some of its care workers on compiling personal playlists. It joined forces with the charity Playlist for Life which was founded by broadcaster Sally Magnusson, who lost her mother to dementia.

Playlist for Life wants every person with dementia, whether living at home or in a care home, to have a playlist of personally meaningful music from key moments in their life, available on an iPod, tablet or phone.

The charity believes personalized music playlists can also reduce pain. It has a very useful Personalised Music Assessment Tool which measures the impact of the playlist on pain as well as a number of other factors.

Abbeyfield Society, which runs care homes and extra care housing, has also now embraced the concept and is training over 200 care workers and volunteers to become music detectives and compile different music that has significant meaning for people with dementia.

Therapeutic benefits amplified.

April Dobson, head of dementia and innovation at Abbeyfield said: “Therapeutic benefits of music are already well documented, and there is growing evidence that personally meaningful music can amplify those effects.

“We can all think of music that gives us ‘that flashback feeling’ and transports us back to another time, person or place in our lives. That music can become a lifeline if you develop dementia because it is deeply attached to your memories and emotions. It can soothe, calm and comfort and also make us feel alive. That’s exactly the experience we want to be able to provide for people living with us who have dementia.”

Abbeyfield staff are being trained up as it can be difficult piecing together songs which are significant to someone with dementia. “They may not be able to speak or remember the songs that have left an audial footprint on their lives. That’s why we are training up staff and volunteers to become music detectives looking for clues and identifying music that triggers autobiographical memory and instils a sense of identity and belonging for people with dementia,” added Ms Dobson.

Music is ‘neurologically special’.

The Abbeyfield Making Music project uses tools and training developed by Playlist for Life, with the project being supported by The People’s Postcode Trust. For more information read here: Playlist For Life.
Abbeyfield Stow Park resident Trudy Morgan with psychiatric nurse, Peter Clark
Playlist for Life chief executive Sarah Metcalfe said: “Abbeyfield is the first care group to deliver playlists into every one of their homes in this strategic way. It is really exciting to be working with them as they lead the way on personal music for dementia.

“Music is neurologically special because it stimulates so many parts of the brain at once. Even if dementia has damaged one part of the brain it can still reach those other parts almost as if it gets ‘in through the back door’ to access memories and abilities that had been thought lost.

“We teach people to become music detectives, giving them skills and tips about how to find the music that is personally meaningful to an individual. Were they part of a choir? Is there old sheet music about? Do relatives or friends remember them enjoying a particular film or going to the cinema?”

Care workers are then taught how to incorporate the playlists they have built into care plans and use the music to help people do the things they may find difficult, like eating or bathing.

“Music helps to make people more grounded in their own sense of self. It can help manage their mood so they have better visits with their family – it’s a way of reminding them who people are. It builds better connections between care home staff and the people they are caring for. Carers learn so much more about an individual just by looking at the person. They learn so much about them and their life story, which is enhanced by the cognitive benefits of music. The two just come together,” says Ms Dobson.

‘I have seen the difference it can make’

Anita Pascoe is an activities coordinator at Abbeyfield Stow Park in Newport, Wales which is set to become the first certified Playlist care home in the UK.

She admits she was “sceptical about the project at first” but says: “I have seen the difference it can make. Many of the people living with us have very complex needs, but the music can help on so many levels. It helps relax them, helping at meal times and bathing – and it does unlock their memories, which is lovely for their families. To see couples who have been so devoted to each other being brought together by music which connects them brings a tear to your eye. It is lovely.”

Creating a personalized playlist is not just about saying someone liked Elvis or Jonny Cash. It’s about going back further: Finding out the songs they would sing in their courting days, or that you could remember them singing before their memory shut down, she says.

Harry and Margaret.

Craigielea care home in Renfrew in Scotland has seen huge changes in their residents due to personalized playlists. Harry who has severe dementia and his wife Margaret were the first couple Playlist for Life worked with at the home. Margaret came every day to see Harry and left most days in tears, as he had stopped responding to her. However something as simple as a personalized playlist got Harry smiling and talking again and he now listens to songs with his wife and they both sing along.

Sheila Inshaw, manager of the home which was recently named as one of the Top 20 care homes in Scotland by the leading care home reviews site carehome.co.uk, reveals that they were looking at some form of medication for Harry as he was so withdrawn “to bright him up a little and get him to interact a bit more. But this is so much better than a chemical intervention. It doesn’t cost anything and we have Harry back for nothing!”

For information about Memory Matters including a free of charge memory test, please call 1 843 842 6688. All calls are treated with confidentiality.

Vision: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness

Mission: Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals, care-givers in the Low Country community




I can do itSome days are definitely better than others! In our Connections program, some days are amazing and you don’t want the day to end because of the electricity in the room and first class contribution from the Club Members themselves.

We live for days like these. When our Memory Care Specialist and Program Director – Cathee- briefed us on the theme for the upcoming day, I had an inkling that this might be a really good day. The theme being “Optimism”. However I had no idea just how dynamic and dramatic the day would be.

Cathee started by comparing optimism and pessimism and seeking to find out how our Club Members and volunteers perceived themselves. She briefly described how we should avoid negative thoughts and the “Cortisol Connection”. For those who have attended our Brain Boosters program we know that cortisol is a potent chemical that surges when we become stressed or worry over nothing. Research has shown it can act like a drug and shrink human brains. Cortisol shuts down learning, creates anxiety and can cause depression.

We talked about worry. Did we mean worry or did we really mean “concern”?

Some of us admitted that we worried about our children even in later life when they have children of their own; and we all worried about the world in which our grand children will live when we are gone. The ‘trick” being to turn that worry into a positive, or an opportunity. This was the moment when our Club Members stepped up, and before Cathee could go into her pre-planned program, we changed course!

One gentleman suggested that we break the discussion into three separate elements: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. We did so and there followed a great discussion where everyone seemed to want to contribute quite profound thoughts. So below this paragraph I am posting a replica of the thought process that evolved, and which we recorded in précis form.

OptimismFollowing the debate we completed a questionnaire specially structured to determine whether we were naturally pessimistic, or slightly or strongly optimistic. The results probably surprised some since nearly everyone was determined to be at least slightly optimistic and many very optimistic, even though these Club Members had earlier perceived themselves to be less than optimistic!

Later in the morning, after our yoga session left us relaxed and mellow we chose to sing some positive songs chosen by the Club Members and  these included: “I’d like to teach the  world to sing in perfect harmony”, “You raise me up” and “The Wind beneath my wings”. Later in the afternoon we closed with “Wonderful World” and “Happy Together” by the Turtles!

After lunch Cathee found time to return to the theme and asked us to list all the things we find positive now we are older (and maybe wiser)!

It was an interesting list and as one Club Member called Tom reminded us, “its an infinite list and we have to find space and time to continue to extend it”!

I repeat, in no particular order:

  • Medicare
  • Grandkids
  • Discounts
  • Going to bed when we want
  • Getting up when we want
  • White hair
  • No need to visit the barber
  • The sense of being alive
  • Relaxing
  • Children invite you to dinner!
  • Good health
  • Easier parking
  • Time to self
  • More choices
  • More time to try new things
  • Learning to play music
  • Learning to dance
  • Learning to sing
  • Reading more books
  • Travel to new places
  • Making new friends

Yes, we agreed with Tom, the list is endless. Tom told me that even busy working people  should be able to find ‘space’ to do most of the above, but it seldom happens. Retirement opens up the choices, or perhaps facilitates the optimistic thought patterns. Good choices today open up infinite possibilities for tomorrow, and so I repeat my favorite mission moment quotation from Dr. Seuss:

DSC_3301 (1)

Being a volunteer at Memory Matters has certainly introduced me to new friends, both staff and Club Members, and days like today help to keep us all positive and feeling young!

I could not finish this blog without a mention of one of our Club Members who was celebrating his 60th Wedding Anniversary. Cathee, Karen and I were present when he presented his wife with a lovely bouquet of roses. It was a very special moment and capped off a super day.

IMG_2481.JPGPlease share this if you believe it would help someone. Call 1 843 842 6688 Memory Matters office for more information. It’s always confidential. We offer memory screening too. We are a phone call away here in your local community.



This blog is intended to give a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who contributed their time, talent and treasure to making our signature Gala – “April in Paris” – such a great success!

Let me start by thanking the renowned Fine Artist Amos Hummell (see above) for gracing our 20th Anniversary Signature Gala held on April 25th at Sea Pines Country Club. Amos gave a live painting exhibition and his beautiful donated work was auctioned during the evening.

This was a truly wonderful evening where the Lowcountry community came together and made a significant donation to our not-for-profit Brain Wellness and Memory Care resource.  In excess of $100,000 was raised for Memory Matters through the goodwill, generosity and pure human kindness of many, many people.

My words of thanks include everyone. By emphasizing this word I include all those people who could not attend the Gala but thoughtfully and generously donated to the event. It would be impossible to list all the names, but you know who you are! Thank you all!

Similarly there were so many kind and anonymous donors present at the Gala. Your generosity was tremendous. Again, I cannot list names, but as my wife’s Irish family would say, thank you a thousand times. 


To our event sponsors, we reach out once more and say “thank you so much”. Without your financial support we could not have been so successful. 

At the top of this list of sponsors are our wonderful Dosal Family friends who gave at the Platinum level. Brookdale, Benton House, and Bloom Senior Living gave generously at the Gold level, and at the Silver level we also received generous donations from Beacon Insurance Group, Boys Arnold & Company, Coastal States -Raymond James, Kroger, South State Bank and Tidewater Hospice.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special “THANK YOU” to Sea Pines Resort who helped secure some imaginative auction items and to Whole Foods who provided 8 dozen roses to help beautify the venue.

To the Board of Directors of Memory Matters who graciously gave of their time, talent and treasure: thank you!

Thank you to those community volunteers who serve on some of our committees. We value your input and efforts on our behalf.

I saw a number of our regular Memory Care Center volunteers at the Gala and for everything you do for our care givers and their loved-ones in the Memory Care center, another thousand thank yous!

Last and by no means least a special thank you to the Memory Matters staff who worked tirelessly on their day jobs and the Gala. As a volunteer in Memory Care, you are my friends and I am proud to be able to work alongside such a passionately dedicated team of people.

For those of you in the Lowcountry who may be reading about Memory Matters for the first time, or are someone who knows of our well-respected contribution to the local community and are interested in updating yourself, I will briefly touch on the key note address given by our Executive Director Sheila Strand. Sheila took over the reins from Eddy Hoyle who retired this year. Over a twelve year period Eddy did a fantastic job establishing Memory Matters as we know it today, and she will never be forgotten.


Now in a short space of time Sheila Strand has already inspired her team to pursue exciting new initiatives and to grow our service offerings still further. In her address Sheila spoke of:


Memory Matters Optimizes Brain Wellness.


Memory Matters optimizes brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals, caregivers and our Lowcountry community.

“Brain Wellness”. We already provide community education for brain wellness. It’s more than what some might call brain health. Wellness has been described  as a state of “being”, whereas health is about our “body”.  These are perhaps semantics so let me use my own words to review Sheila’s address. Let’s consider this holistically but in a practical way.

Many of us attend a gym and work out. Some of us just walk, jog, ride a bike or practice yoga. We then monitor our weight, muscle build up and BMI (body mass index). We are complimented for loss of weight and muscle build up, and then we are chastised by the physical training experts for an increase in BMI! Wow! We need to eat more regularly and more often and sometimes simply more! We always need to balance carbohydrates and protein.

With our heads reeling from all this knowledge we are now encouraged to adopt a southern Mediterranean diet! Now that is a pleasure, and anyone reading my recent blog on the nutritious value of Italian food can perhaps start to relax a little! Even drink a glass of red wine in moderation.

All of the above makes eminent sense to those of us who are determined to maintain their fitness for life as the years seemingly move faster by. These fitness and nutrition plans are so important and are frequently adopted, but how many people do you know who deliberately combine brain wellness programs with exercise and nutrition? How many have daily plans to exercise their brain?

If you would like to know more about this subject then please call us and make an appointment to speak confidentially to one of our Memory Care Specialists. By adopting simple techniques and programs we can help you to develop a holistic plan.

My wife and I like to think that our aging memories are relatively intact, but we both benefited hugely from the Brain Boosters program last year and, speaking as a person who volunteers twice a week in our programs, I am constantly learning and finding new ways to exercise my brain. In fact I would recommend volunteering at Memory Matters to anyone looking to give back to the community and, at the same time, improve your own brain wellness.

So please continue to follow these blogs as I seek to describe the evolution of Memory Matters in our community. We are not short on ideas, knowledgeable people or motivation to succeed. We are also “listeners” and I would encourage you please to call us with your ideas and needs.

We are not just based at 117 William Hilton Parkway! We are constantly moving through the community from Hilton Head to Bluffton, Sun City and beyond. We are educating through our Purple Angel project and teaching sensitivity where appropriate. We are developing new brain wellness programs which we can bring closer to your home.

In summary: our vision to optimize brain wellness is evolving, and our mission to optimize brain wellness and memory care through education, programs, and support for individuals and care-givers in the Low Country community is taking place now!

We desire to partner with you to spread the message that our brain wellness education is available to all.

Let me finish by reiterating my thanks to EVERYONE who contributed to our Gala in a modest or substantial manner. You are all important to us at Memory Matters and your visible renewal of confidence in our future was truly humbling. 


Please share this if you believe it would help someone. Call 1 843 842 6688 Memory Matters office for more information. It’s always confidential. We offer memory screening too. We are a phone call away here in your local community.