Prevent Senility the French Way
How do you envision yourself at 70, 80, 90? Clear minded, or memory challenged? In Stone Crossings I explore this question— albeit with a spiritual emphasis— through the work of Ellen Langer and her book Mindfulness.
Here's an excerpt from Stone Crossings concerning Langer...
What [she] found in study after study was that 'old' is too often a state of mind, not a state of fact—even in people aged eighty and up. In a series of studies that raised the bar for elderly participants, she and her colleagues saw dramatic results—from memory loss reversal to prolonged life, improved hearing and vision, increased emotional satisfaction, renewed hand strength, and so on. p.141
Richard Restak, author of Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot concurs. He notes that the brain WILL change over time but says, The real question is: Will we help bring about positive, enriching changes in our brain's structure and function, or will we allow it to undergo 'disuse atrophy'? p.15. According to both Langer and Restak, we do have some choice in the matter of senility onset; we have some measure of control, depending on how we challenge our brains.
While Langer's book is more theory and research, Restak's is delightfully practical. I learned, for instance, that using my hands is vital for preserving brain health. So all that dish washing, floor sweeping, onion chopping, lawn mowing, piano and guitar playing, keyboard tapping and pencil wielding I do... well, it's good for my brain. Music is good for my brain too, as is paying attention to fragrance. Standing exercises are excellent brain developers. Learning a language is terrifically helpful. And, says Restak, The brain thrives on novelty. Stress, on the other hand literally kills my precious neurons in the hippocampus.
I can think of all sorts of applications. Notes to myself, like never hire a housekeeper... unless you are trying to develop his/her brain and put your own into atrophy. Or, hey don't sit so long at the computer; it doesn't qualify as a standing exercise. Or how about this one? Go to Paris, where you'll hear new music, see new things, relieve your stress, stand a lot, and have a reason to learn French. On that last one, I think I'll do it sometime in the next couple weeks— go to Paris, that is. Do you think I can learn French that quickly? Je ne sais pas, but I'm going to try.
Eiffel Tower photo by J Barkat. Used with permission.
Ted's book club post Roxaboxen: Heaven
Ted's book club post Blood from a Stone: Completion