The second Sunday in May is boom time for purveyors of flowers, chocolates and greeting cards. I believe our Mothers richly deserve all the bouquets, treats and treacly notes they get, even if the spirit of the occasion has been to some extent hijacked by commercial interests.

But on this Mother’s Day, let me suggest a more thoughtful present, one that is deeper and surely healthier than a box of bonbons.

How about the gift of good brain health?

Medical science has only scratched the surface of our understanding of our most complex organ, but already we have learned that there are choices we all can make that can help keep it functioning at its imperfect best.

The latest edition of our magazine, MIND OVER MATTER® (published earlier in May and available online on Women’s Brain Health Initiatives website) has several articles with thoughtful advice.

I invite you to read the piece about the value of resistance training. It is not only for those who aspire to buff up. It seems that the stronger people became, the greater the benefit for their brain. As the article points out, there are studies indicating that taking a resistance training class twice a week can have beneficial effects on cognitive functions in older women, both those who are healthy and those who show signs of mild cognitive impairment.

It is a good reason to buy your Mother some classes. Better yet—join her. It is never too early to consider your own brain health.

As you tone your body, consider also the fuel that you put into it. The MIND OVER MATTER® article “Supplement your Brain” points out that while the results of research into anti-Alzheimer’s drugs have been disappointing, there is increasing attention focused on the benefits of nutrition.

We already know that eating a healthy diet is much cheaper than drugs and has no harmful side effects. The article quotes Dr. Weihong Song, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia and Canada Research Chair in Alzheimer’s disease, who says well-balanced vitamin and mineral consumption “helps to slow down the aging process and slow mental decline.”

For Mother’s Day, you could give the gift of good food—try researching healthy recipes and cook them for Mom, or with Mom. Our MEMORY MORSELS® website is loaded with delicious brain-healthy recipes. Share some nutritious, delicious meals together, because as the MIND OVER MATTER® article on the impact of loneliness points out, staying socially engaged helps reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Our magazine also has a fascinating article on the value of bilingualism—and not only for promoting national unity. Dr. Ellen Bialystock of York University has been named an Officer of the Order of Canada for her studies of the cognitive effects of bilingualism. There is research indicating that, on average, people who have been bilingual all their lives who develop dementia show symptoms four years later than people who are monolingual.

Lifelong learning has undeniable merits and learning a second language has many salutary benefits. If along the way, you can also keep your brain healthier, it is all the better. Joining your Mother in some classes at the Alliance Francaise can not only improve your ability to order in Parisian restaurants, it might just help preserve your quality of life.

MIND OVER MATTER® also has a helpful article about the growing use of technology to assist people suffering from dementia to stay independent longer. The choices can be relatively low-tech, such as adapted phones that have pre-programmed numbers, sometimes associated with the picture of the person you wish to dial.

There are now GPS (global positioning system) devices that allow you to monitor your loved one’s movements—very helpful for peace of mind if your Mother has a tendency to wander. The choices for technological aids is vast and growing: motion sensors that will automatically switch lights on or off, helping to avoid falls in the night, or devices that will automatically turn off a stove or a tap that has been left running.

As the article points out, not all technological aids are right for all people. But if your Mother or Father is dealing with dementia it is well worth exploring the options. Greater independence for him or her is a wonderful gift.

As we grow older, many of us have concluded that experiences often make better gifts than things. An opportunity to share a meal, or a class or just quality time together can be much more meaningful than an item that might gather dust in a closet and later be sold in a garage sale.

Perhaps the greatest gift of all is your time spent with your Mom - taking the time to nurture her heart, her soul and her brain health. On this Mother’s Day, I hope you will consider the things that matter most for all of the women in your life.

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