Care and Feeding of the Middle Aged Brain
As we work with administrators to help navigate the world of Long Term Care it is hard not to be hyper-aware of our own mortality and the eventuality that we, too, are likely to reach a point where we will need some level of assistance in getting through the tasks of day-to-day living. This awareness, combined with our mission to be a resource for those who serve the aging, means that our antennae are up for any news related to maintaining our bodies and minds well into our twilight years!
A New York Times review of the new book The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain caught my eye a week or so ago, and the author, Barbara Straunch, had some interesting insights to share relative to what middle-aged brains are actually good at, and how to keep our brains functioning well into the future.
- Our brains are still growing and developing far into adulthood. Although we do have some compromises in short term memory (Where are my keys anyway? And what is your name?), the middle-aged brain is actually better in many ways than at any other point in our lives.
- Logic, creativity and social skills are all at a high point during those middle years. Although you might not remember the name of the person to whom you are speaking, you will be an excellent judge of his character.
- We do not, as previously thought, actually lose brain cells as we age.
- Exercise and diet recommendations that benefit your heart are also likely to benefit the health of your brain. Exercise in particular can actually help strengthen and grow your brain. So get out there and start moving!
- Although there are benefits to making your brain work hard, crossword puzzles and learning a foreign language hold no particular magic powers in terms of maintaining the health of your brain. Partaking in vigorous debates on subjects of interest can be just as helpful, so unless you just love the Sunday Times crossword puzzle, you can stop doing it!
- Meeting and engaging with people is healthy for your brain, and your mood!
It is so refreshing to hear that middle age is not necessarily the beginning of a slow slide into senility. Staying engaged and active in life, both in terms of intellectual pursuits and social involvement, seems to be key to keeping your gray matter from graying.
I am hopeful that by maintaining an active life filled with fulfilling relationships, creative pursuits and lively conversation, I can remain one less consumer of Long Term Care services in New York!