Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Mature Mind

Yesterday as a member of the Aging Advisory Council for Boulder County, I attended a “Create Our Future” celebration. The keynote speaker was Dr. Gene Cohen, author of The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain. His talk countered the traditional view of only focusing on problems of older people by looking at the potential of what older people accomplish, not despite their age but because of their age. He had had an opportunity to interview George Burns and shared several stories about the comedian. When asked what his doctor said about his drinking and smoking, George Burns replied, “My doctor’s dead.” George Burns also quipped that he started asking for applause in advance. Gene Cohen described how the old view that the brain doesn’t produce new neurons has been dispelled as well as indicating that the brain continues to sprout new dendrites and form new synaptic connections. He described the “new senior moment” being not one of forgetting but one of doing something creative. He gave an example of his father-in-law who when faced with a snow storm and no taxis in Washington, D.C. had this solution. He went into a pizza shop and ordered a pizza for home delivery. He then asked that he be delivery home along with the pizza. Cohen also cited research that older people use both sides of their brain more than younger people. Older people may be slower at solving certain problems than younger people, but they possess something that is gained over years: wisdom.

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