Program helps Ponte Vedra man keep his memory sharp

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Can your brain be rejuvenated even after early signs of dementia begin to appear? That would be a resounding “Yes!” from the students of Sage Brain Academy in St. Augustine.

One of those students is W. Scott McLucas of Ponte Vedra, age 92, who began experiencing some memory loss a few years ago and became determined to do everything he could to “retain and retrain” his brain. McLucas is a Yale alumnus, philanthropist and world traveler, and his memoir, “Lucky Life,” chronicled his fascinating life in show business as a producer and promoter of the arts.

“I still have much I’d like to accomplish in this life,” said McLucas, “and I need to keep my mental faculties in shape.”

In conjunction with keeping fit both physically and mentally as he ages, McLucas employs a physical trainer who comes to his home three times a week, and for several years he has attended the St. Johns County Council on Aging’s Integrative Memory Enhancement Program at the Ponte Vedra Memory Care Center, 1048 A1A North, once a week. 

McLucas and his wife, Nancy, travel to St. Augustine once a month to participate in Sage Brain Academy’s Montessori-based memory program (offered Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — including lunch).

On Thursday, May 12, the Ponte Vedra couple joined seven other Sage Brain Academy students in various interactive mental dexterity exercises facilitated by certified dementia practitioners Jim Barber, Ginny Bullard and Michele Sanchez. They used simple word and math games that involve critical thinking, verbal proficiency, reasoning, focus and concentration. All of these activities are related to the science of neurogenesis, a process by which new neurons are formed in the brain — crucial when an embryo is developing but also continuing throughout our human lifespan.

Just as important as the structured games played at Sage Brain Academy are the opportunities for enjoyable social interaction during lunch and break times, as well as physical exercises, deep breathing techniques and reminders to hydrate the body by drinking water regularly throughout the day.  

“Sage Brain Academy has been like a brain massage for me; tenderly challenging me and helping me re-inflate my intellectual and social skills,” said Dick Pischke of St. Augustine, who suffered brain damage as the result of a construction accident several years ago and has regained nearly all of his former cognitive ability. Pischke attends classes two or three days a week and especially enjoys the laughter, nostalgic music, trivia and light physical activity. 

Meanwhile, in Ponte Vedra, Scott McLucas receives a private cognition coaching call at home from Jim Barber every Wednesday afternoon. The two men meet through Zoom and engage in dialogue on topics from A to Z.

“The calls from Jim are inspiring and give me a fresh perspective,” said McLucas. “I’ve developed a feeling of friendship with him, and I rejoice in that.”

McLucas notes that he always looks forward to the call and it never fails to arouse his interest.

“I’m proud of Scott for doing all he can to keep active and vital,” said Nancy McLucas. “Even though I’m a few years younger, I also benefit from his activities, and I do my best to contribute by encouraging a healthy diet for us here at home.” 

“It’s a pleasure to work one-on-one with a man like Scott McLucas,” said Barber, who purposefully encourages self-confidence and pride of accomplishment in his students.  “Scott has many great stories to share. Our conversations are always lively, interesting and conducive to thought.” 

For information on Sage Brain Academy, LLC, call 904-429-7059 or go to sagebrainacademy.com.

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