THE WAY WE THINK.
An interesting article in the March third edition of the Toronto Star by Christine Sismondi entitled “Is the way we think about aging wrong?” prompted me to write this post.
Being in my seventies, as you can imagine, has prompted some thought on this subject. Rather than being a (and I don’t use this word lightly) VICTIM of this over sixty-five generation, I found the article gave me a desire to expand on my thoughts and why.
For some time this subject has been of interest and some of the opinions that comfort me, others may find unnerving. Rather than find it unnerving, I would rather you would consider it thought provoking and lay aside your mindset on this subject.
We all, whether we realize it or not, have a mindset, that in most instances doesn’t allow us to enter into new gardens of thought.
SYNOPSIS OF CHRISTINE’S ARTICLE.
She built the opinion for her article from two books written by David A. Sinclair, Professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, entitled “Lifespan, Why We Age-and Why We Don’t Have To.” The other, a book by neuroscientist and Professor Emeritus at McGill University Daniel J. Levitin, entitled “Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives.”
Levitin urges us to stop seeing everything after sixty-five as a bleak slow decline.
Instead, he says, we should start to view those years as a distinct phase of life and human development, like adolescence or infancy, which poses both challenges and unique opportunities. When it comes to cognition, for example, aging is often thought of as a steady period of inevitable decline that sees people lose their memory, reason and ability to pay attention.
Levitin explains that neuroscience has established that, although the aging brain might not be as good as it used to be at some tasks, it’s actually getting better at others.
The terrifying signs of decline are actually the result of the brain shifting gears from focusing on the external world to focusing, increasingly, on our internal thoughts. Most people lose some short-term memory, but the trade-off is that we get better at things like synthesis and pattern recognition.
The big take-away is that cognitive changes in healthy seniors can be more about trade-offs than decline, which represents a whole new way of thinking about aging, that in itself is a pretty profound rethink.
David Sinclair’s bold new theory that aging isn’t inevitable, is even more radical.
Sinclair’s research supports the idea that we should start thinking of aging as a disease – and develop treatments for it. What more, he says we’re not far away from that being a reality.
A big piece of the puzzle has to do with the proteins that pull double duty-repairing DNA damage and simultaneously, “controlling genes” and keeping order.
When they get pulled away too many times to put out the fires of damaged DNA, they lose track of the “paperwork” at the office, which involves telling cells how to behave. He goes on to say, “You see this is why we should never multi-task.”
Sinclair and his colleagues tested the theory on mice by having them multi task “breaking” their DNA. When the mice aged prematurely, they decided to pursue this research aggressively, reasoning that, if they could “give” mice aging, they could also take it away.
Levitin is invested in increasing health span rather than lifespan, meaning that the number of years of healthy living is more important to him than numbers on the tombstone. For Sinclair , it is really the same thing since, if we cured everybody of aging, our bodies would be healthier, which would, as a result, increase our lifespan.
Sinclair makes the case that an army of optimistic people with vitality and wisdom (not to mention a talent for pattern recognition) is exactly what we need to solve the world’s problems.
EXPERIENCE VERSUS THEORY.
My interest in this article came more from my own personal experiences and reasoning through different scenarios. It is not as farfetched as one may think.
I mentioned at the beginning of this article my desire, that you would lay aside the mindset that you have. You will get nothing out of this post unless you do that. It will come across as my son would say as a “Brain F–k.” It’s not meant to do that, but it could open a whole new world for you.
To do that, you are going to have to accept some different meanings and understandings and realize the difference between theory and experience.
Theory is a perception of what something is or could be, experience is the reality. That is a whole new world, but it is PERSONAL, so it can be different with each person, yet each will reach the same destination. That is why I named this blog “I don’t have the answer.com” “but you do.”
I’m going to give you an example that I found interesting to illustrate the difference between the two and the importance of both.
A couple of years ago I walked “The French Way Camino.” I had a book by John Brierley detailing the journey from Pied St. John to Santiago de Compostela. I did read some of the book before taking the trip, in an attempt to familiarize myself for what lay ahead, it didn’t work. It was an account of John Brierley’s walk but for me it was still in the theory stage.
When I was walking the Camino or experiencing it, the book became very important to me. Many of the things John Brierley talked about in the book did not interest me to any great extent. For me, when I arrived in a town or city I could look in the book and find a place to stay, a place to eat and some quick facts about the town I was in. Each evening, I would plan the next day’s walk from that book, how far I would travel, towns I would go through, what elevations were ahead the next day and plan where I would stay the next night. The book was a constant companion.
What I could not get from the book was the thrill of the experience. Each evening was finding a place to stay, new people I would meet during the day and in the evening at the Albergue. In the morning, planning what I would wear, if it was raining, hot or cold. The blisters on my feet that I had to be careful about. The climbs I would have to do today, each day was different with new experiences.
THE EXPERIENCE WAS REALITY. A different world from reading about it in a book.
I could have discounted that book, but that would have been a mistake, it was my companion along with other companions I met or saw, on the way to my destination. It made it easier for me. I could not speak the Spanish Language nor had I been in Spain before. Without the book and the other companions I may have reached my destination and again I may not have. Whatever, it would have taken me much longer, because of wrong turns and traveling to dead ends.
When we rely on other people’s account of something or anything, we deny ourselves the joy or pain and in most instances both joy and pain of the experience. (Most don’t enjoy pain, but pain is a way of letting us now there is something wrong and gives us an opportunity to correct it. Also, it helps us to enjoy the joy more.)
That example should give a picture of the difference between learning and experiencing, yet the importance of both.
My desire in this post, is to challenge you and at the same time encourage you, yet your journey will no doubt be different from mine, but we can still reach the same destination.
To think something through, we have to understand ourselves and more importantly be honest with ourselves. We generally accept what society has placed upon us, and our mind is set.
But, YOU ARE DIFFERENT, from everyone else,YOU ARE UNIQUE, YOU HAVE YOUR OWN DNA and no one else is as SPECIAL AS YOU.
To hear and reason things through, it is necessary to open your heart, listen to other than yourself, but it is your journey. Don’t discount what others say, but remember this is your experience, you will meet companions along the way but no one can walk it for you.
If you don’t want to hear what someone is saying, it is because your mind is set. If your mind is set, nothing will be reasoned, not because you don’t want to, but because you can’t. The mind can only send information to the brain, it can’t receive anything back, making it impossible to reason.
It is necessary to see ourselves as a duo personality. It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “I can be my best friend, or my worst enemy.” That is true, but it is necessary to distinguish between the two. (That is why at the beginning of this post, I mentioned, you have to be honest with yourself.) In previous posts I have expanded and in some instances been repetitive on the subject of distinguishing between the two. Each post has a gem to sometimes encourage, sometimes challenge, but always to point you to you.
I do not and will not apologize for being repetitive, it is all part of the journey and we need to be reminded on occasion.
At the beginning of this post I wrote, “Rather than being a (I don’t use this word lightly) VICTIM of the over sixty-five generation.”
It is my intention to expand on that statement, so it does not cause confusion or misunderstanding.
Three years ago I was part of a writing group, here is an excerpt from an article I wrote entitled “Seniors.”
“When I became a senior citizen, it had a two-fold effect. In that I had arrived to the great age of sixty-five and still in good health, was something to be happy about and proud of. To be put into a category did not sit well with me. Society has a tendency to categorize, I always felt that was a disservice to an individual and had a certain stigma attached to it.”
Further on, I wrote
“As seniors we are given respect to a degree, but we are also marginalized. In a way we become what we do and that is so unfortunate. The person is the most important, not the senior, the child, the woman or the man, each is a person and each in their own way contribute to society.”
The victim aspect is the mindset, “we become what we do” or in some instances what other people say we are. In this instance the senior. We accept that and what the connotation means, we are no longer a contributing aspect of society. If you are not an asset than you are a liability.
That has become somewhat evident in some of the dialogue regarding COVID-19 and if the medical system becomes over whelmed and a decision has to be made, as to who will get treatment and who won’t.
It reminds me of George Orwell’s book “Animal Farm” and the fate of the horse.
Society considers seniors expendable. Is that respect? Not all society feels that way and not all seniors will agree with me. It is human nature to accept what society says and not think it through, which is not fair to any individual, whatever the label.
How COVID-19 is playing out in long term care homes for seniors, illustrates to a certain degree, that the government talk has been strong, but care has been weak. The manifestation of past performance now show us what reality is. It is easy to talk the walk, but more difficult to walk the talk.
On my “Camino” journey, I mentioned a close companion, the book by John Brierley. There were others, the Camino shell, the yellow arrow, the people walking with a back-pack and the Spanish person that recognized me as a pilgrim. When there was a difficult situation, where there was no help available, my inner self was always with me and on several occasions it was necessary to draw from that companion. I was never alone, even though it was a solo undertaking.
On my “Journey of life,” my companions vary as well. Sometimes I recognized the direction I was getting from another person, many times it was after the fact and as I journeyed through life, the impact of what a person said or did hit me. Other times, usually when I had no one to turn to, my comfort came from within.
The Bible has been an important book in my journey, NOT AS A RULE BOOK, on how to live, but as a GUIDE BOOK, guiding me on my journey of life. A journey with a Higher Power.
Science also has been a big help. Norman Doidge’s book “The Brain that changes itself,” has challenged me. Freud’s writings are challenging as are Abraham Maslow’s writings. Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” was an interesting concept. I always thought the top of his triangle “Self-Actualization” should have be at or near the bottom. If we know how to live we will know how to make a living.
My observation of science and religion. Science controls the mind and Religion controls the soul, and never the two will meet, regardless of what is said.
Obviously that has not always been the case, but disagreements between religion and science has amended the understanding to the following meaning. Psychology is the science of the mind and behaviour. (Webster’s) It is interesting to note that in the seventeenth century Psychology was the “Science of the soul.”
My thought, if we disregard the soul (spirituality) we do ourselves an injustice, likewise if we disregard science (mind) we do ourselves an injustice. It is sort of like “connect the dots.” Science can put the dots in place, the Soul can connect the dots.
It is impossible to determine the picture, until the dots are connected.
When a person reaches sixty-five, the majority of people are ready for and retire. Retirement is a time to do the things a person enjoys. For those with the means, there is travel, time for more volunteer work and leisure time.
There is very little vision, just the inevitable. Society has set out what a senior should be and the majority accept it. So it is not as much societies fault as it is for a senior to accept that designation.
Sinclair and Levitin both seem invested in health span more than lifespan. Seniors now have a longer lifespan than a few decades ago. I wonder sometimes if it is not the result of medication that has given some of those extra years? Extra years with little or no medication is much more attractive.
For me, Sinclair and Levitin’s studies are interesting, however, I find Sinclair’s studies the most interesting. In a nutshell, from his studies , stop multi-tasking and things will change.
When our mind controls we are always multi-tasking, the mind races in a dozen different directions on any given day. What I gather from this if we were not multi-tasking our DNA would be much stronger and easier to be repaired, giving us a longer healthier life.
To have the SOUL control daily activities we would not for the most part multi task, we would dwell in the present, we can only be in one place at any given time.
Sinclair makes the case for seniors, as an army of optimistic people with vitality and wisdom(not to mention a talent for pattern recognition) is exactly what we need to solve the worlds problems.
THAT WOULD MAKE SENIORS AN AMAZING ASSET TO SOCIETY.
The plus side to Sinclair’s studies were two fold.
First, THE WISDOM THAT’S BEEN ACCUMULATED, wisdom far exceeds knowledge. Wisdom is feet on the ground, in the trenches. Whatever a person’s vocation has been, if they have reached sixty-five, something has been learned. The reality of experience “I’ve been there and done that,” speaks volumes. Very few people get through life without weathering a few storms.
Second, A TALENT FOR PATTERN RECOGNITION. Rather than look at pattern recognition from a technological perspective, let’s take a look from the psychological perspective, since we are dealing with a human being. “Recognizing patterns allow us to predict and expect what is coming.” (Wikipedia) Pattern recognition requires repetition of experience. Semantic memory, which is used implicitly and subconsciously is the main type of memory involved with recognition. (Wikipedia)
Over the years we build up an amazing amount of practical information from our interacting with the world around us. If we were to rely on our SOUL (subconscious)(neuromodulator) rather than our mind (conscious) (neurotransmitter) we would be so much more intuitive.
Sinclair’s assessment, in a certain aspect, runs parallel with the Bible, if we look at the Bible as a guide to a higher form of life, rather than a rule book on how to live a moral and upright life.
Instead of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” for the horse, it could be more like the movie “The Cocoon.”
The article that prompted this post “IS THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT AGING WRONG?” The answer is most definitely “YES.” We as seniors have accepted the categorization put on us and are not willing to think outside the box.
THINK FROM WITHIN AND WITHOUT WILL CHANGE.
That is the message portrayed in all my posts in this blog. There is a gem in every posting.
YOU are greater than you think, Age doesn’t matter.
Comments on this or any other posts are appreciated.
My next post will either be hated or embraced, I hope neither, but consider the post with an open mind. The title “The Bible-Is it a Rule Book or a Guide Book?
Stay safe and stay positive.