Barbara Strauch, author of “The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind” and health editor for The New York Times reveals her findings on the phoenomenon of the middle-aged brain in an interview with Tara Parker-Pope (also of the NYT). In the interview, Strauch addresses a few common myths about the middle-aged brain.
Strauch defines modern middle age as between 40 and 65. Short-term memory can be a problem at this time, but overall, she says our brains are functioning better than ever during this time period. She notes that our brains — contrary to popular belief — are still developing during this time, much like the brain of a teenager, yet we’re better able to do many things with our brains than we were during our earlier years.
Inductive Reasoning and Problem Solving
Inductive reasoning and problem solving are the biggest talents of the middle-aged brain, according to Strauch, along with social expertise and our ability to make financial judgements. Memory problems mislead us into thinking that our brains are on the downward slope, but in actuality we’re able to make use of millions of connections and pathways that we’ve built over the years, boosting our creativity and critical thinking skills.
Boosting Your Brain
Using your brain continuously might have its benefits, but according to Strauch, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain. Exercising your body, interestingly enough, is great for boosting your brain power. Exercise increases your brain volume and produces new brain cells, even in adults.
Socialization and Your Brain
Engaging in intelligent discussion, particularly with people who have differing opinions, is also good for your brain. And socialization helps, too. Strauch points to a number of studies that have shown that people living in more social situations age better cognitively than others.
Overall, Strauch emphasizes that middle age, while it’s typically thought of as a gloomy period, is actually a very optimistic time in our lives, according to studies. One study in particular found that the well-being of men peaks at age 65.
All of these findings point to the benefits of remaining active and social as we age. Independent living communities offer seniors many advantages of active living, including plenty of opportunities for socialization and cognitive enrichment.
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