Guest blog: Use it or lose it

Author: Claire Young

Date Published: March 28, 2013

Originally published: RedBalloon - Behind the Red Door

1. Have you ever successfully completed a crossword puzzle or put together a piece of furniture from IKEA?

2. Do you know what Sudoku stands for or how many possible combinations there are for a 9-by-9 grid?

3. Have you ever piggybacked your boss?

4. Do you know what it’s like to have a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s?

If you asked me the above questions, this is what I’d tell you…

1. Yes and yes! The crossword took me all day (I’m still waiting for my standing ovation)  and you can take a look at my IKEA furniture below… I got a little bit of help from dad, but I did put the drawers together all by myself.

2. The name “Sudoku” comes from two Japanese words: “su”, meaning “number,” and doku, meaning “single.” If you put the two words together it means “single numbers only.” Oh and there are only 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960 possible combinations!

3. The things you do at boot camp after work…

4. In recent years, both of my grandmothers were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – in a way I feel like it’s played a big part in our family experience. So naturally, when I heard about the 'Heart Your Brain' challenge, signing up was an easy decision.

But what exactly is the ‘Heart Your Brain’ challenge?

It’s 21 days of new ‘brain healthy’ habits. I’ve pledged a commitment online to improve my mental and physical health by trying new experiences. Research shows certain lifestyle and health factors are good for the brain, body and heart and can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

‘Your Brain Matters’ had plenty of suggestions for activities to get me started. Surprisingly, keeping my brain stimulated and trying new things wasn’t all that hard – but I think that’s due to this wonderful place I’m lucky enough to call work.

Here at RedBalloon we’re encouraged to try new experiences and get outside of our comfort zone. Having a healthy work-life balance is promoted with flexible working hours, a constantly stocked fruit bowl and a wellness program which (among other things) gives us access to free outdoor personal training. Which brings me back to that time I piggy backed my boss…

So how have I challenged myself over the past 21 days?

Well in a snapshot, I’ve…

  • Learnt something new every day – the website is my new best friend. For example, did you know the acronym OMG has been used for 95 years? The first person to receive a letter with OMG was Sir Winston Churchill. Now if I could just find the origin of amazeballs…
  • Committed to a brain train exercise each day – there’s heaps on Alzheimer’s Australia’s BrainyApp
  • Become a pro at Sudoku
  • Been to a play and watched the movie Hitchcock
  • Completed a Rubix Cube
  • Started a DIY project (hello IKEA!)
  • Worked out four nights a week for at least 30 minutes
  • Eaten five serves of veggies and two serves of fruit – thank you work fruit bowl
  • Trained for the Newcastle Colour Run with my mum
  • Spent time outside with my beautiful labrador, Zoe 
  • Eaten healthy snacks at work and cut down on junk foods. Well… I’ve tried to cut down on junk food, but the Easter bunny just keeps leaving chocolate on my desk!
  • Tried a new activity. A few RedBallooners and I went jet boating on Sydney Harbour this week. Having only worked at RedBalloon for just under two months, it was my very first RedBalloon experience and I’d highly recommend it. Ponchos are obviously for the weak.

At RedBalloon we’re all about creating good times with the people we love. My Mama once said that at the end of your life, the only things you have are your memories and your values. By completing the Heart Your Brain challenge, I’m one step closer to remembering the special times I’m creating for many years to come.

How can you challenge yourself today?


Call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 for questions, information, advice.


Your Brain Matters was supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Chronic Disease Prevention and Service Improvement Fund from July 2012 to June 2015.



Dementia Australia would like to acknowledge the Aboriginal people as the traditional custodians and carers of the country of Australia.