I was just passing by the magazine section of the bookstore, on my way to the “rest room.” I hadn’t intended to look at magazines at all. But this Time special edition caught my eye.
The whole topic of creativity was one I’d been reading about, and learning interesting bits of “found wisdom.” (I mentioned some of them early in this series.)
Plus, I suppose this subtitle had a special draw:
After all, I’m an aging person. So I’ve got an aging brain. And I’ve been so fired up lately to pursue creativity. Is this a foolhardy notion?
There’s a whole chapter on this in this book posing as a mere magazine. And look at what new findings it talks about:
I don’t know how you react to that statement, but I think it’s stunning. After all we’ve been led to believe! As the article itself relates:
“Until quite recently, most researchers believed the human brain followed a fairly predictable developmental arc… It… reached its peak of power and nimbleness by age 40. After that, [it] began a slow decline, clouding up little by little until, by age 70 or 80, it had lost much of its ability to retain new information and was fumbling with what it had… That, as it turns out is hooey.”
It goes on to report that neurologists and psychologists are now concluding that the brain during the years from 35 to 65 “and even beyond–is much more elastic and supple than anyone ever realized.”
I just can’t help but wonder if some of those “old folks” did realize it, but no one else wanted to believe it.
What scientists are reporting is that though aging can bring about in some people “inflexibility, confusion, and even later-life dementia,” for many other people the aging process actually makes the brain work better! And it mentions some of the examples of continued creative productivity beyond the age of 70 that we should perhaps have paid more attention to, like Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Doris Lessing. (There are lots more, really.)
The article quotes UCLA neurologist George Bartzokis, who explains, “In midlife [increasingly considered to include up to age 65] you’re beginning to maximize the ability to use the entirety of the information in your brain on an everyday, ongoing, second-to-second basis. Biologically, that’s what wisdom is.”
So, I guess there was something all along to the idea of the “wise old man” or “wise old woman.”
There’s way too much information for me to relate here in a short blog post, but it involves things like the importance of not “gray matter,” but “white matter” increasing in the higher brain regions (where the “seat of sophisticated thought” is), and the use of a different hemisphere of the brain (or both hemispheres–“similar to the way you need both hands to lift a weight that you could lift with one hand when you were younger”). Changes in the brain as we age also may improve temperament in many people, which enables them to take a more mature demeanor to the the table and to deal more ably in people relationships.
Well, I love this “new” wisdom about wisdom, and creativity, relative to age. What encouragement to pursue learning, creativity, and interrelating with others, even into whatever ancient age God may enable me to reach! It makes me think of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, who figured out all those complex crime schemes nobody else could, when the people around her who didn’t know better just thought of her as an inept, doddering old maid. It also brought to mind this quote I’d found in my book of sayings:
And I smile.
4 thoughts on “Day 28 Found Wisdom: On Your Aging Brain”
Quite encouraging. Been feeling aged lately and a look in my disaster of a studio yesterday had me thinking I will never use all this in the time I have left. This is a glimmer of hope on one more gray day.
More than a glimmer, methinks, Laurie. Maybe you’ll never use all of it–I think the same thing about my fabrics and papers and all that, and am deciding to dive into making quilts/comforters where they can do some good instead of all that just hanging around, and give myself permission to do more collage and mixed media stuff. Though clearing the clutter helps clear the mind for creativity, we do need a stash to give us *creative* choices. So… happy sorting! One square foot at a time. That just may help get the creative juices flowing. God bless it!
Love that quote!
Thank you for this positive and encouraging series:)
Yeah, I love it, too, Katie. Thanks for your kind encouragement. It has been a challenge!
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