Last weekend, I got in some great family time.

A particularly powerful moment was when my grandmother Mammanjoon (MJ for short) held Mala, our new daughter, in her arms for the first time. Immediately, she recited a poem she had written for Mala in her native Farsi.

It's said that the people of Shiraz, Iran — where our family’s lineage dates back several hundred years — cherish creativity, curiosity, and celebration. MJ’s actions remind us of this legacy each day. She wrote poems for each of her nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, and she can easily recite any number of Rumi and Hafez poems she’s committed to memory over the 92 years of her life. She pulls late nights with the family playing logic games like Rummikub and Hokm, a Persian card game. She regularly practices new crochet patterns, tries new recipes, and is curious about new technologies.

When I look back, it seems there’s no challenge MJ’s been afraid to take on. And despite her age, her memory is as sharp as mine — on my best days.

When I asked MJ the number one thing that keeps her mind so sharp, she told me that it’s doing things that engage and challenge her.

Her response almost perfectly echoes the latest research into neurodegeneration, highlighted in this month’s Adventure Guide:

“People who have led more cognitively stimulating lives — through formal education, complex paid occupations, and/or cognitively engaging hobbies — have a reduced risk of developing dementia ... Cognitive engagement provides cognitive reserve that delays the onset of cognitive impairment.”
– CCNA Researchers Nicole D. Anderson, PhD, Angela K. Troyer, PhD, and Kelly Murphy, PhD

Whether it’s memorizing poems or learning a new stitch — by living a ‘cognitively stimulating’ life, it would appear that Mammanjoon has built up a ‘cognitive reserve’ — basically a bank of neurons that can be drawn on for years to come. By building our cognitive reserve, researchers suggest that we can actually delay symptoms of old age.

And on a personal level, it might be the reason why Mammanjoon continues to school Dave in Rummikub and delight her new great-granddaughter with poetry.

To life, love, and learning,

Mike Radparvar
Co-Founder, Holstee

P.S. Fun fact: MJ created many of the first prototypes for our first product, the Holstee t-shirt (holster pocket + t-shirt = Holstee). In many ways, she is the reason Holstee exists today! Speaking of new products... if you haven’t heard yet, we are preparing for a Kickstarter launch later this summer! Learn more about our newest product, Holstee Reflection Cards →

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Adventure.

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Our Themes

Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.