Do You Lie About Your Age?
Millie’s Big Eight-Oh

Older = Smarter, and Wiser Too

category_bug_journal2.gif After bashing AARP yesterday for publishing a loathsome piece on why lying about our ages is a good idea, it is only fair to note their report on aging brains which counters conventional wisdom that people lose mental power as they get older.

“…studies have shown that older adults are better at solving problems, more flexible in their strategies, and better able to keep their cool during a crisis than younger people are. They also bounce back from a bad mood more quickly.”

According to this story, which is part of a special report on normal and abnormal brain aging, we do get smarter - and wiser too.

“[People] frequently overlook the mental powers they gained...

“’In the old days, you called it wisdom,’ says Duke University neurobiologist Lawrence Katz, Ph.D. ‘But what is wisdom, really? It is a dense and rich network of associations developed through a lifetime of experiences.’

"You can’t buy that richness, and you can’t get it from a pill. You have to earn it – by putting your gray matter to the test time and time again. ‘There’s a reason we don’t have 20-year-olds running Fortune 500 companies,’ Katz says.”

Although aging brains normally lose some speed in learning new skills after age 50, “once you have learned something new, it stays with you as well as it does with younger people.”

So why do older people have a bad reputation for what their brains can do? It’s what I’ve been saying at Time Goes By all along:

“Blame it on our youth-obsessed culture. Many factors can impair thinking and memory, but the most insidious is ageism. Researchers are discovering that the more you buy into the notion that getting older means losing your marbles, the more likely you are to succumb to it.

“For example, Yale University psychologist Becca Levy, Ph.D., has found that older people shown negative words about aging, such as senile, before taking memory tests did significantly worse on the tests than those shown positive words about aging, such as wisdom.

“In fact, people who saw positive words improved their scores. Levy has also shown that in cultures with a more positive view of aging than ours – China, for example – older people perform better on memory tests.”

The more you believe memory loss and thinking ability will decline as you get older, the more likely they will. A healthy diet and exercise play into maintaining brain power in old age too.

Researchers also report that risk for developing dementia is reduced if you continue “challenging your intellect with puzzles and lessons.” I would add blogging to that list. You can read about its benefits here.


Comments

I find the excerpts from the AARP article to be excellent and I feel that seniors, myself included, often demean ourselves with comments such as, "Senior Moment" or "Guess old age is just catching up." I had forgetful moments and an inability to remember certain words or certain faces at 20, 30, and so on. I apologized but I never said, "I forgot because I am ___ " (Fill in the blank with any year younger than 55.) I for one, will not use excuses such as these anymore. I think they are devasting to our self-esteen and enpowerment.

Since I am not a crossword enthusiast, I would put blogging at the top of my list. I am a people person and enjoy the contact and the opportunity to share my thoughts.

Thank you, Ronni, for all your enthusiasm for exploring our years of wisdom.

I've loved puzzles since I was a kid...almost ANY puzzle. Who knew that they would be key to keeping my sharpness in tact...God knows my diet and expercise can use a lot of improvement. And as for blogging...you NEVER know. It's been on my mind a lot lately. Thanks Ronni. -Joy

I also do puzzles everyday and have for years. I sure hope it will keep me sharp. I know that blogging helps to keep my brain moving along!

Yes, puzzles are a good way of exercising your brain, but so is blogging ;)
Problem solving of any kind is good for us.

This was a great article, Ronni and very informative.
I also agree with Maria....heck, I had forgetful moments at 25. I've always maintained that age doesn't have a thing to do with this...my theory is, we're so darn busy with this, that and the other thing, I feel sometimes our brains are simply saturated. They go into overload and this is what causes those forgetful moments.
Based on my own research as a home health nurse for 18 years....when I'd ask a 90 yr. old (who was as alert and mentally oriented as a 30 yr. old) what's your secret?
Every single time I got the same answer....I've kept my mind busy! Be it knitting, reading, puzzles, computers, etc. Remember the old saying...if you don't USE it, you LOSE it.
Here's to always using our brain power and staying "young" in mind.

Thank you, Ronni, for posting this as I needed this reminder just now. After being out of the workforce for five years, I am interviewing for a job and started obsessing about how to overcome inherent ageism in the hiring process. Since the position is in e-commerce, there is a bias that only young people understand internet marketing, totally ignoring the "dense and rich network of associations developed through a lifetime of (marketing) experiences."

From what I've seen, dementia doesn't just happen gradually. Most of us seem to lose our ability to store phone numbers in our brains and keep track of out to-do lists in our heads, but that's a different thing. Real dementia seems to have some kind of organic cause. It's the symptom of one or another serious conditions, usually.

Wow....lesson learned. Thanks.

Yes, yes - a daily crossword is the salvation of the brain (sanity, word-knowledge, etc.). I've also recently taken up the Sudoku craze currently sweeping England (you can find the puzzles at The London Times, Guardian, etc.). I'm not a numbers-person, as such, but these puzzles exercises another part of my brain. I find I'm not losing things out of my memory; I have too much packed in! I wrote on my own blog the other day that I'm beginning to understand Adult ADD - there's so much going on in my head that flashbulb-ideas seem to be going off all the time (and, no, I'm not having a stroke). Crosswords and Sudoku help me focus my brain-energy. Good conversation - thanks!

From reading your blog I think you like to know people are reading so....

Maria was visiting about 2 months ago and showed me your blog. Since then I visit your blog most everyday. I don't comment but I so enjoy reading your thoughts. Just wanted you to know that I am one (of many I am sure) who is influenced by your writings. Thanks!

There was a study some years back, and reported in the NYTimes, that many adults aren't any more forgetful than most children. The thing is, we tend to be far more aware of our forgetfulness than children are, so we magnify its significance.

Frankly, what I often see is people who absorb certain ideas about ageing and then want to live up to those ideas. I worked in lingerie sales for about 4 years, and I cannot begin to tell you the number of women who blame their spreading middle-aged waistlines and sagging breasts on the kids they had. For them, it isn't about getting older--but, being childless, I would always remind them of the age factor. Yet many of these same women who bemoaned their bodies also were, in some cases, *acting* far older than me--and they were much younger! That, to me, proved that ageing isn't just in the body, but in the mind.

I'm just sick of a world that wants the wisdom and drives of a 40 year old in the body of a 20 year old. Hey! if you want the mature mind, you have to accept the mature body too--that's life!

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