A book of puzzles for the mature mind

Lindy McClean makes her living as a massage therapist, but easing the muscles and connective tissues of her clients didn't seem like enough, so she took it upon herself to massage their minds, as well.

McClean, a former Gold Hill resident who lives in Brookings, recently published a puzzle book aimed at senior citizens in need of mental exercise. The 48-page book, called "Senior Smart Puzzles," contains the kinds of brain twisters known to foster mental acuity, but with a twist. The book also delivers a dose of nostalgia with images from the early 20th century designed to stimulate the memories of America's Greatest Generation, including drawings of classic cars, and people such as Babe Ruth and Betty Grable.

"I have a lot of elderly patients in my practice, which is how this came about," says McClean, who earned a math degree from Fresno State University before attending the Ashland Massage Institute. She also played keyboards for Central Point School District choir classes and events for 20 years before changing careers and moving to the Oregon Coast in 2000.

"The aging brain is an explosive topic right now," says McClean. "A lot of my clients like to do puzzles, but say they can't do the harder puzzles."

McClean says she introduced some of her clients to children's puzzle books, but while the difficulty level of those puzzles was appropriate for seniors with memory issues, the children's images didn't resonate with the senior intellect.

"The purpose of this book was to provide something that was just right," she says.

The book contains an assortment of mazes, hidden-object puzzles and similar-object puzzles, where readers try to find the difference between similar images. While McClean is the source of the brain teasers, the book gets its personality from James Cloutier, a Eugene illustrator who provided the sketches.

"The first objective of the book was to provide brain-activity puzzles," says Cloutier, 70. "But the secondary goal was to do drawings that would create a sense of nostalgia and reminiscence ... and to get people talking about their memories and be more social."

Cloutier worked from classic photos provided by McClean, and from historical images found on the Internet.

"I really wanted to be accurate with the drawings that were period pieces," he says. "It was important to capture the feel of the 1920s, '30s and '40s to add another dimension to the book."

Cloutier says he had a special connection to the project after watching his father die of Alzheimer's disease eight years ago.

"I went through that whole phase of him not recognizing me, so I had a personal connection to the subject."

"Senior Smart Puzzles" is available for $10.99 at or through McClean's Web site at

Mail Tribune Features Editor David Smigelski can be reached at or 776-8784.

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