Copyright © 2000-2013
by Barbara Brabec
All Rights Reserved
Barbara Brabec's World
How to Enrich and Empower
Your Brain as You Age
by Barbara Brabec
AS BUSINESS OWNERS, we all want to stay as mentally sharp as possible as we
age, and one way to do this is to pay attention to our overall health, which
directly affects the health of the brain.
Much about the human brain remains a mystery to scientists, particularly when it
comes to understanding how the brain ages. But research is reportedly speeding
up now, pushed by the fact that more than 12,500 Baby Boomers are now hitting
age 50 every day.
I love Marian Diamond's optimistic viewpoints about the aging brain on the
American Society of Aging website. As one of the few scientists allowed to study
Albert Einstein's brain, she has burst myths about the brain's
inevitable decline with passing years, maintaining that our brains don't "go
downhill" after the age of 30, and that "you can teach old dogs new tricks." By
2050 there will be 30 million Americans age 85 or older, Diamond notes. "Our
challenge then is to learn ways to keep the brain functioning at an optimum
level for a lifetime," and "We need to change our negative attitudes toward
aging for ourselves and for others."
According to an article in
Remedy Magazine, there are a number of simple things
you can do to enrich and empower your brain. To stay healthy, your brain needs
regular mental stimulation (i.e., use it or lose it), sufficient sleep (a
problem for many struggling entrepreneurs), and—believe it or not—plenty of
vegetables. Chemicals in the brain that influence mood, mental agility, and
memory tend to decrease with aging, and studies have shown that if we eat less
than one serving of vegetables a day, we are more likely to experience cognitive
decline than those who eat three servings a day.
And did you know that a glass of antioxidant-rich red wine with dinner can
actually help protect you against dementia and other forms of cognitive loss?
Iíll drink to that!
The Benefits of Age
Although age brings its own share of problems, it also brings such benefits as:
A More Philosophical Attitude.
In his article,
"Illuminating the Mind,"
Richard Anthony says that "Getting older is also associated with certain
giftsófor example, an improved ability to be philosophical about the fact that
downs are as much a part of life as ups." In this article, he quotes John Gabrieli,
professor of brain and cognitive sciences, who says recent research
has lent credence to the idea that the "wisdom of age" is real, and goes on to
explain all that is being learned through fMRI (functional magnetic resonance)
studies of the brain.
Greater Insight into Complex Situations. According to the experts, we become
wiser in our older age because age brings with it greater insight into complex
situations and a keener ability to evaluate circumstances accurately. In other
words, we are better able, as we age, to utilize our past experiences and apply
what we've learned in unusual ways.
Increased Creativity. An uplifting fact gleaned from my research on this topic
is that changes in the aging brain may actually enable us to become more
creative as we age—as evidenced by the number of artists, musicians, architects,
comedians, writers and other creative people who have not only been productive
into their nineties, but did their best work as they got older.
In a PBS special on "The Secret Life of the Brain," Stanley Kunitz was cited as
an example. When he was named poet laureate of the United States at the age of
95, he was still writing new poems, still reading to live audiences, and still
standing as an inspiring example of the brain's ability to stay vital in the
final years of our lives.
Remember actor/comedian George Burns? He enjoyed a remarkable career
resurrection at age 79 that was ended only by his death at the age of 100,
making him better known in the last two decades of his life than at any other
time in his life and career. "At the age of 79, it was like I was just getting
started," Burns said in an interview. "I didnít quit. I stayed in there. And I
finally got so old that I became new again."
Iíve always loved Burnsí philosophy about life and work, and here are three of
my favorite Burnsí quotations:
"Fall in love with what you do for a living. I don't care what it is. It works."
"I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I
"You canít help getting older, but you donít have to get old."
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