With no exception, all of us age. Now, why is “aging” such a bad word? What about growing? and lifelong development? If you are a caregiver, you know this process is not always easy, but the good news from neuroscience these days is that there is much each of us can do.
1- Change: We should talk more about change than about decline, as we discussed recently with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, who wrote his great book The Wisdom Paradox precisely on this point.
2- Improvement: Some skills improve as we age-In our brain fitness classes, we typically explain how some areas typically improve as we age, such as self-regulation, emotional functioning and Wisdom (which means moving from Problem solving to Pattern recognition). For example, as a lawyer accumulates more cases under his/ her belt, he or she develops an automatic “intuition” for solutions and strategies. As long as the environment doesn’t change too rapidly, this growing wisdom is very valuable.
3- Decline: …whereas, yes, others typically decline: effortful problem-solving for novel situations, processing speed, working memory, attention and mental imagery. In other words, the capacity to learn and adapt to new environments.
4- Let’s worry less: Now, there is a key difference between not remembering where I put my car keys today…which happens to all when we are too absorbed in something else and is not by itself a big deal…and not remembering why I need keys to open my car. Sometimes we tend to worry too much.
5- Lifestyle: Studies have shown a tremendous variability in how well people age and how, to a large extent, our actions influence the rate of improvement and/ or decline. Our awareness that “it’s not all doom and gloom” and that there’s much we can do is very important.
6- Brain Reserve: If we want to maximize our chances of healthy aging, we should focus on 4 main “brain health” pillars: brain exercise, physical exercise, stress management and a balanced diet. And the earlier the better to build a Brain Reserve that may delay Alzheimer’s related symptoms-studies have shown a risk reduction of up to 38% thanks to these lifestyle habits!.
7- Brain Exercise: In terms of brain exercise, we must ensure we engage with activities that provide us novelty, variety and constant challenge to exercise and cross-train our “mental muscles” (cognitive and emotional skills). This is our best “brain food”.
8- Computer-based programs: Computer-based brain exercise programs are great vehicles or tools to help us with our stress management and mental stimulation needs, as compliments to other activities in our daily lives. This is why you are reading more about the Brain Fitness movement these days, grounded on the research behind adult neuroplasticity (how the brain can rewire itself).
9- Retirement?: baby boomers (and many healthy adults over 62!) want to remain active and mentally stimulated beyond arbitrary retirement ages. Why accept arbitrary age limits?
10- Attitude: no matter where we are or what we do, how we react to it makes a big difference. Let’s focus on today and tomorrow, not yesterday. Let’s focus on what we can do to improve. Let’s continually exercise our brains.
Copyright (c) 2007 SharpBrains