We live in a time when the definition of of Over the Hill keeps getting younger and younger. At 34 years old, I am already considered old by some. I certainly don’t feel old, but I already find myself looking for physical and mental signs that I am going down hill. Besides some hair thinning, I haven’t noticed much of anything.
I still am learning new things constantly. I embrace change much better than I did when I was younger. My memory is as good as it ever was (that’s not saying much though). And, I still experience the youthful wonder of periodic acne breakouts (woohoo!). But, I still find myself fearing that magical day when everything starts declining.
Much to my relief, I recently read an article in Time magazine debunking many fears I had about the decline mental abilities. Studies of the aging human brain show continued improvement in our ability to process the knowledge we have well into the later years of life. Additionally, psychologist, Ravenna Helson, performed a long term study of 142 women at several stages throughout their lives beginning at the age of 27 through 61. Here is a summary of Helson’s findings as reported in Time magazine:
… highest scores in inductive reasoning occurred from their 40s to their early 60s. Similarly, their so-called affect optimization (the ability to highlight the better aspects of one’s personality and restrain the less attractive ones) and their affect complexity (the ability to evaluate various contradictory ideas and remain objective) did not peak until their 50s or 60s. There was also an increased tolerance for ambiguity and an improved ability to manage relationships.
The Surprising Power of the Aging Brain : Time Magazine
Like everything else in our physical universe, we are changing constantly. These changes are quite often for the better, late into our elder years. If you are a younger person and concerned about growing old, I hope you can take comfort in the idea that age can bring greater things. Change and growth never have to stop. If you are older, I hope you keep changing and growing and sharing your experiences with the rest of us. We have much to learn from you.