Brain User's Guide to Aging

(Do's and don'ts for keeping mentally sharp)

A user's guide to keeping a sharp mind in old age.

Virtually every event in one's life leaves its imprint on the brain, from the sound of a loved one's voice to the nutrients in an afternoon snack.

No one knows for certain how it all interacts to keep a mind sharp in old age or to reduce its capacities, but scientists are certain that a robust older mind is affected by influences that occur throughout a life time.

Experts offer this advice to those hoping to stay mentally vital as they age:

  • Seek variety because it is the spice of the mind's life.

    A broad range of experiences makes for deep reservoirs of knowledge to draw upon in old age; especially, endeavors that delight a person tend to enliven the brain; while unpleasant tasks can make it dull.

  • Be flexible, and such willingness to improvise and to try new things will serve the mind better than a resistance to change or an insistence that things be done a certain way.
  • Find peace because those who are often depressed, anxious, angry, or discontented are more vulnerable to earlier and a steeper drop-off in brainpower than those who find life fulfilling.
  • Seek new horizons; such as, novel experiences which keep the mind limber and resist the temptation to settle into a comfortable routine.
  • Engage the world by doing things that you believe make a difference in life.

    People who don't feel a sense of purpose tend to disengage from life and to lose faculties sooner.

  • Keep control of your life as much as possible since a sense of helplessness leads to mental apathy and deterioration.
-Compiled from excerpts located in
"Brain Power" by Joannie M. Schrof in the U.S. News & World Report;
November 28, 1994; page 97.

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