Wednesday, 22 January 2014
Senior Moments: A Feature, Not a Bug
It is “common knowledge” that turns up every day in print, online, in movies and TV shows: old people are all incompetent, can't learn anything new, don't care about sex, are depressed and senile.
Of course, none of that is true but the myths stubbornly abide. One that is widely believed and feeds all the rest is that when we reach old age, we are all on a one way trip to dementia. Even a lot of old people believe it:
“When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong.
“Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.”
I'm repeating some of this old blog post because a few days ago, my friend Judy Graham alerted me to a report of a more recent study published in Psychology Today this month upholding this phenomenon:
“Healthy aging, as [researcher Michael] Ramscar explains,” writes Thomas T Hills, PhD., “may be nothing more than gaining more experience and then dealing with the consequences of having learned from that experience...
“Ramscar puts it this way: 'Older adults’ changing performance reﬂects memory search demands, which escalate as experience grows.' And this makes them slower...
“Youth has the benefit of speed and flexibility, but age has the benefit of wisdom and guile…and slowness.”
Surely like me, you've joked about how long it takes to find the word you're looking for, for just this reason and it becomes more evident with each new research project that we've been correct about it all along.
Just as Hill further explains about Ramscar's work:
“The message is fairly intuitive. Our computers slow down as we store more information on them. Information gets harder to find in libraries for each additional book stored in that library. Libraries are vast and valuable, but they are rarely fast.”
So let's put the brakes on “senior moment” excuses and accept that this is how old brains operate – more slowly sometimes, but usually more accurately.
ANNOUNCEMENT: In keeping with letting myself off the hook for too many responsibilities while sick, I have not prepared stories for The Elder Storytelling Place this week. They will return next Monday 27 January.