"History is a wonderful thing, if only it was true"
-Tolstoy

Friday, February 16, 2007

Older? ... nah, just better

I'll start off with a message I got from a contact on topic of blogging:

"On another note. I recall that you are retired. I think I have that right? I have an idea working at the Times about writing a piece about retirees who blog. I'm not looking for "Hey, Grandpa or Grandma is blogging. Ain't that cool." I'm looking for examples of retirees who've become serious bloggers as a way to enhance their lives, add their experience and wisdom to their professions, stay current, and stay engaged in a way that was rarely possible previous to the advance of consumer generated content and social media. I wonder if you are an example of this and whether you can help identify other talented, wise, energetic, and serious bloggers who fit the profile?"

(To avoid any confusion, I have not "retired" ... still busy with many endeavors)

Of course, I immediately thought of Doc Searls.
NO Not that he's old, hell, we're only about a month apart, but because he knows so damn many bloggers.

His lead : Ronni Bennett

But this whole topic go me to thinking.
What is retirement, and how does/might it apply to us "Boomers"?

Big 6 Oh coming up for me this year.

Some/many will take the traditional "retirement" path, but :

a) as for myself, I find that I still tend to "think young" ... that may change, maybe as Ronni thinks, it's denial of change, but I'm not so sure.

Some aches and pains which modify my behavior a bit, but not all that much... yet.
Hearing is worse, but I'll accept that.

I use to say I was 50 going on 20, now maybe approaching 60 going on 35 (40?)
Note the ratio - maybe a sign of age.

b) patterning on the American Express ads with Dennis Hopper, this generation has always tried to do things "different"... maybe we'll be taking on "age" with a verve and passion for life and living. Therefore not "retiring"

c) what will be the accepted age of "retirement" as we tend to be healthier? This lends to the whole "Social Security" debate ... what is the right age to consider?
In other words, if one is healthy and productive well into their 60's - 70's and beyond, what is "retirement"?

Better nutrition, exercise, not to mention medical advances are changing the whole dynamic of demographics.

Then, this afternoon, I got back to my WSJournal and spotted a piece on "Aging Brains"
:The Upside of Aging "New research finds some brain functions actually improve with age. Our reporter on delayed retirement and how to stay sharp."

Excerpts:

"The aging brain is subject to a dreary litany of changes. It shrinks, Swiss cheese-like holes grow, connections between neurons become sparser, blood flow and oxygen supply fall. That leads to trouble with short-term memory and rapidly switching attention, among other problems. And that's in a healthy brain.

But it's not all doom and gloom. An emerging body of research shows that a surprising array of mental functions hold up well into old age, while others actually get better. Vocabulary improves, as do other verbal abilities such as facility with synonyms and antonyms. Older brains are packed with more so-called expert knowledge -- information relevant to your occupation or hobby. (Older bridge enthusiasts have at their mental beck-and-call many more bids and responses.) They also store more "cognitive templates," or mental outlines of generic problems and solutions that can be tapped when confronting new problems."


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Discoveries of brain functions that hold up, or even improve, through the decades could affect corporate and public policy. As baby boomers age, many are resisting mandatory retirement. In January, a special committee of the New York State Bar Association recommended that law firms abandon the practice. Air-traffic controllers are asking federal agencies to reconsider the requirement that they retire at age 55, and the Federal Aviation Administration in January proposed pushing back the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots, which is currently 60.

The emerging neuroscience is on their side. One of the most robust cognitive abilities is semantic memory, which is recollection of facts and figures. "Semantic memory is relatively resistant to the effects of aging," says psychology professor Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Semantic memory includes vocabulary, which increases with age so reliably (at least in people who continue reading) that a younger person should never challenge a sharp 75-year-old to a crossword puzzle.



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The biggest benefit of an older brain is that fewer real-life challenges require deliberate, effortful problem-solving. Where once it took hours of methodical scrutiny to understand a prospectus, for instance, older lawyers and investment bankers can zoom in on crucial sections and fit them into what they already know.

Elkhonon Goldberg, a neuropsychologist who has a private practice and is a professor at New York University School of Medicine, finds that he can also grasp the essence of data presented in scientific papers more readily than he once could, something that more than makes up for losses in other mental realms. "I am not nearly as good at laborious, grinding, focused mental computations," he says, "but then again, I do not experience the need to resort to them nearly as often."

While younger brains solve problems step-by-step, older brains call on cognitive templates, those generic outlines of a problem and a solution that worked before. It's the feeling you get when you see that a new situation or problem belongs to a class of situations or problems you have encountered before, with the result that you don't have to attack them methodically. Yes, older people forget little things, and may have occasional attention lapses, but their cognitive templates are so rich that they more than hold their own. Their brains can keep up even with a diminished supply of blood and oxygen.


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The benefits that come to the mind and brain with age extend beyond thinking. They also include a greater ability to put yourself in another person's mind, empathizing and understanding his thought processes -- emotional wisdom...A 2006 study of 250 people ranging in age from adolescence to their late 70s documented for the first time "positive changes in the emotional brain," according to the Society for Neuroscience, which publishes the Journal of Neuroscience. In the experiment, Leanne Williams of the University of Sydney showed the volunteers pictures of faces expressing emotions. Using fMRI brain imaging, it was found that circuits in "medial prefrontal" areas -- right behind the forehead -- were more active in older people than younger people when processing negative emotional expressions. The greater activity suggests better control of reactions to other people's anger, fear and the like. This greater sensitivity seems to translate into decreasing neuroticism, and greater emotional equanimity.

That doesn't mean older brains flatline when it comes to sensitivity. Instead, they often show a keen emotional intelligence and ability to judge character. Elderly volunteers given a list of behaviors that describe a made-up person ignored irrelevant information (favorite color, place of birth) when asked to judge the person's character and focused on revealing traits better than younger people did, according to research by Thomas Hess, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University. They were more likely to infer correctly that the person was dishonest, kind or intelligent -- a skill that is arguably more important than the ability to memorize a list of words in a lab experiment.


Wow ... was that timely or what?

So, what lies ahead?

I'm just as curious as I have been for years, maybe a bit more reflective, but also am engaged in plenty of projects. With a broader view, maybe even more than in years past, I'm continuing to look to integrate and cross reference various threads, firms, connections and relationships, to see patterns and seek to enhance and build upon positive connections.

2 comments:

lakelady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lakelady said...

ok, I gotta ask....you're retired from what exactly? ;)