Back to School-Forward to Health!

Author:  Rhonda Latreille, MBA, CPCA
Founder & CEO
Age-Friendly Business®

The days are getting shorter, and the back to school ads are filling the airwaves. Fresh starts, new learnings, and yet to be explored challenges are no longer the exclusive domain of the young.  More and more, life-long learning is shifting from the ‘nice-to-do’ to the ‘must-continue-to-do’ column of our life.

Before you rush to invest in the latest online brain games, you might decide instead to simply take up a new hobby!  Could it be that simple?  Apparently so.

Dr. Denise Park, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas decided to put this to the test. 

Dr. Park recruited 200 volunteers and assigned them to 3 different groups.  During a 3-month period, each group spent 15 hours per week with assigned activities.  They were given memory tests at the beginning and end of the research period.

Group 1 took up new hobbies such as quilting and photography (including use of photoshop.)

Group 2 participated in social events such as watching movies together and reminiscing about past vacations.

Group 3 worked quietly on their own at home, listening to music or playing simple games or puzzles.

Dr. Park’s findings revealed that not all activities are created equal when it comes to cognitive improvement.  Yes, social engagement is essential to quality of life and even longevity, but if you want to enhance those brain cells and improve your memory – you’ll have to take on new and challenging activities.  Moreover, the more challenging the activity, the better the results!

With Dr. Park’s study, the group that showed the most significant improvement in memory was Group #1 – the group learning new hobbies with new challenges.  Within that group, the photography participants (who also needed to learn new computer skills) showed the greatest gains overall.   Furthermore, the improvements were still evident a full year later.

Stimulating brain cells does not have to be repetitive or tedious.  Have fun.  Explore a new interest, take on a new hobby, acquire new skills, and learn something you didn’t know before.  Not only will you stretch and grow, you’ll remember why you did it!

Rhonda Latreille, MBA, CPCA

Founder & CEO

Age-Friendly Business®


Grilled Chicken Barley Bowl

This recipe makes 4 servings, Prep 20 minutes, Cook 10 minutes


  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) pearl or pot barley
  • 2 cups (500 mL) baby arugula
  • 4 carrots, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 red peppers, quartered
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb/454 g)
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) canola oil, divided
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) balsamic vinegar


In a small saucepan, cover barley with water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until barley is tender but still chewy. Drain well and toss with arugula; set aside.

Spray carrots and peppers with cooking spray; set aside.

Toss chicken breasts with 1 tsp (5 mL) of the oil and chili powder to coat.

Heat grill to medium-high heat and grill carrots, peppers, and chicken breasts for about 7 for the vegetables and about 12 minutes for the chicken. Turn occasionally until vegetables are tender and chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove to cutting board.

Slice carrots and peppers; toss with remaining oil and vinegar. Divide barley mixture among 4 bowls and top with vegetables.

Slice chicken and place over top to serve.

Nutritional Info Per Serving (1 of 4) – Calories 280, Protein 26 g, Total fat 6 g, Saturated fat 1 g, Cholesterol 60 mg, Carbohydrates 33 g, Fibre 5 g, Sugars 7 g, Added sugars 0 g, Sodium 120 mg, Potassium 700 mg

Recipe by Emily Richards (PH Ec.) Reprinted with permission from The Heart and Stroke Foundation.


Staying Young

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young.  The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

Henry Ford

You may also like…

Holiday Blues

Overcoming Seasonal BluesDecember's arrival usually ushers in a season sprinkled with sparkling lights, heartwarming melodies, and shared traditions. Yet, have you ever wondered why amidst these festive symbols, some of us find ourselves grappling with a shadow of...

Anatomy of the Grandparent Scam

Anatomy of the Grandparent ScamIt is back.  It is dangerous.  It is heart-breaking.  It is called the Grandparent Scam.  We have been educating and warning folks about this cruel scam for decades now.   Although we have related the details of the scam in our articles...

Heat Wave — Cool Down and Stay Safe

Heat Wave: Cool Down and Stay SafeSummertime brings about a much-anticipated reprieve from the cold, snowy, or rainy seasons. We often rush to enjoy the radiant sunshine and replenish our much-needed vitamin D. However, it’s crucial to be mindful of the potential...

Expanding Definition of Family

ExpandingDefinition of FamilyAs we age, the need for connection, acknowledgement, and engagement becomes even more pronounced. At the heart of this connection is the construct of family, becoming increasingly vital to our sense of self and well-being as we travel...

No Longer Here – But Never Forgotten

No Longer Here –But Never ForgottenA remarkable and cherished woman passed away a few months ago.  She was a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, mentor, role model, businesswoman, and confidante.  Her name was June, and she was my sister-in-law.  I was blessed to...

Building a Legacy That Goes Beyond Material Wealth

Building a Legacy That Goes Beyond Material WealthHave you ever wondered what lasting legacy you will leave behind for future generations? While accumulating material wealth can be significant, passing on values and characteristics that will stand the test of time is...

Light – Circadian Rhythms – Health and Well Being

Light –Circadian Rhythms – Health and Well BeingDid you know that your tissues and organs have their own biological clocks?  Even more compelling is the fact that these clocks are coordinated and synchronized! The conductor of this grand synchronization is a ‘master...