Sunday’s NY Times (1/1/17) had a piece in the Sunday Review called “How to Become a ‘Superager.’”Apparently, doing puzzles, reading memoirs, and walking daily are not nearly enough to hold back the scourge of dementia. If you are seriously interested in staying mentally sharp, nimble in body and mind, a regimen of misery must be instituted; that is, you need to cultivate the “major hubs” of the brain by pursuing those activities that will make you “tired, stymied, (and) frustrated.” In fact, the best agers have adopted the Marine Corps principle: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” So when we push ourselves, whether mentally or physically, to the point of pain, the results are, most likely, a more youthful brain with “sharper memory and a greater ability to pay attention.”
This article urges us Boomers to throw away our useless brain games, paltry walks, and Zumba classes and thrust ourselves into uncomfortable, even painful, physical and mental situations. “You must expend enough effort that you feel some ‘yuck;’ do it til it hurts and then a bit more.” It seems evident that if we avoid this effort, forgo the pain and embrace enjoyment, it is likely that our brains will suffer. And then, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves!
Of course, all of us know intelligent, active, engaged people who have succumbed to Alzheimers. And all of us know couch potatoes who have studiously avoided most things that are good for them but can still beat us soundly at Jeopardy. So there is definitely no certain path to guaranteeing brain power throughout a lifetime.
I (along with many experts in the field of aging) believe that suffering is overrated at any age, that extreme competition and a “no pain, no gain” philosophy can result in unhappy, anxious, frustrated sixty somethings who are unable to relax and enjoy their lives. Do you have to prove yourself at 65 the same way you had to prove yourself at 35 in order to avoid the stiff penalty of a logy brain?
So I’ll do my Words with Friends, walk most days, and study folk guitar. I’ll also practice meditation and enjoy some great naps and trust that my brain is doing what it’s supposed to do!!