A Pew Research Center Survey on Social and Demographic Trends study on Growing Old in America that came out last Monday provides an interesting comparison of those 65+ and their experiences with aging to those 64 or younger and what they believe old age will be like. It seems that younger people think that certain challenges of aging will be inevitable. For example, they expect that 57% of older people will experience memory loss and that 45% will not be able to drive. While the numbers are still high enough to cause concern, 25% and 14% respectively, they are not as high as many seem to fear. This serves as a great reminder of the fact that not only is it important to maintain your brain, it’s still possible to positively impact your brain, no matter how old you are.
After all, it seems that age is just a number. The gap between how old people are and how old they feel widens to about 9 years by the time we reach 82. Plus, beyond certain age-related milestones, the perceived markers of “old age” include not being able to live independently, not being able to drive and frequently forgetting familiar names. While we cannot do anything to keep ourselves from getting older, we can keep our brains from aging.
The Brain That Changes Itself
In The Brain That Changes Itself
, Dr. Norman Doidge explains the notion of neuroplasticity, which proves that the brain is a living organ that can actually change its structure and function at any age. It’s never too late (or too early) to start taking care of your brain, especially since memory issues and other problems associated with aging accelerate in your 80’s and after. For example, 41% of adults 85+ experience some memory loss and 25% are no longer able to drive. Often older adults in their 60’s and 70’s feel that they cannot do anything to stop memory decline. Especially with people living longer than ever as the article points out, it is important to maintain your brain to enjoy those years.
Wits & Wagers
It is also vital to find ways to make sure you take advantage of the positive aspects of getting older. The study found that, while older adults do not experience as many problems as younger adults expect, older adults also do not enjoy all the benefits that younger adults expect they would. For example, they do not have as much time for hobbies as expected (65% vs. 87% expected) or for spending time with family (86% vs. 70% expected). Given all the benefits of socializing to the brain, it is important to spend time with friends and family, and I encourage you to maximize that time with brain games that can be played with the whole family. Wits & Wagers
is a great way to test your knowledge of trivia and of your loved ones.
What do you think of the study? How does it compare with your experience or expectations of growing older?