Getting Smarter As We Age

May 19, 2014

In most countries with a traditional culture, old people are respected and honored for their wisdom. In the United States, we tend to see them as old, doddering fools whose best years are behind them and who are just taking up time and space, waiting for the grim reaper to take them.

But worst of all is that for so many people, their thinking gets fuzzy and they get mentally lazy. Doctors keep telling us that as we get older, our brain shrinks and we lose a lot of our memory.

A little more than a year and a half ago, I took a very hard fall on my head. I told the neurologist that I was having difficulty remembering some things. Instead of understanding that someone who has had a severe blow to the head might have temporary memory loss, he told me that my brain has shrunk and I shouldn’t expect my memory to return.

That was so stupid of this brilliant 40-or-50-something neurologist. Since my work depends on my memory, I knew that I had to work hard to get it back. And I did. Two weeks after that pronouncement, my memory returned. When I told him about it, he didn’t want to hear it.

I was lucky but I also worked very hard to make it happen. My theory has always been that if you want to have a good memory, learn something new every day and use that new knowledge as much as you can during that day.

Our senior citizens aren’t being told to exercise their brain every day; they’re just being told that most of the brain cells have shrunk and they have to live with what they have and not expect to remember things like when they were young.

Now they’re throwing us a bone by saying that the elderly may not know how things work but they do know what things are worth working for. Nonsense. Teach us how they work and expect us to learn. We can do it. Don’t expect us to live down to your expectations; raise us up to exceed your expectations. We can do it, especially if we are encouraged to succeed at these new things.

Ah, the young. I hope they learn before they get to our age.

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