I’m not as alert and energetic as I was when I was younger. But I’m happier, healthier, love my work and life more now than any other time in my 58 years. I’ve been wondering why I enjoy and am unafraid of getting old (which many people fear more than dying) and today I found this great article on CNN about “The Aging Brain”.
As usual, we learn that assumptions and stereotypes are a major reason why growing old is misunderstood and looked at as a sad, bad thing. CNN contributor Amanda Enayati writes:
In his book, “Major Issues in Cognitive Aging,” Timothy A. Salthouse, professor of psychology and director of the Cognitive Aging Laboratory at the University of Virginia, writes, “Although there is no shortage of opinions about cognitive aging, it sometimes seems that relatively few of the claims are based on well-established empirical evidence … assertions about cognitive aging may be influenced as much by the authors’ preconceptions and attitudes as by systematic evaluations of empirical research.”
And then there is evidence indicating that as your brain ages it actually gives you new powers of perception and even innovation:
…(W)hat’s even more interesting is that many of these advanced abilities correlate with key conceptual elements of innovation and creativity. This is particularly true for the human-centered design process — empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test — as outlined by the Institute of Design at Stanford, also known as “the d.school” where, in the interest of full disclosure, I have coached a design course called Sustainable Abundance. ”There are neuro-circuitry factors that can favor age in terms of innovation,” observes Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and director of the UCLA Center on Aging.
I often joke that one of the great things about your mind aging is that every day is a new experience. But what growing old has taught me that is most valuable is I’m more inspired to try new things without fear of failure or rejection, and my curiosity has expanded past the mundane, everyday events of the journalism world to matters of the environment, renewable energy, art, travel, and cinema.
I’ve never been one to shy from controversy but as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that most old men actually try to be more controversial: the so-called “grumpy old man syndrome”. Fox News, the Tea Party, and other right-wing activist groups are populated primarily by old white guys who complain about everything- including being old white guys. Even though I could easily be like that, I’ve chosen not to which is one of the reasons I’m much happier now. Which leads me to believe that political discourse in this country wouldn’t be nearly as angry and ugly if these cranky seniors would put down their picket signs and pick up a paint brush.