Sunday, March 27, 2011

Super-power number one!

It occurs to me that I spend an awful lot of time on this blog whingeing about the more negative aspects of middle-age, like weight and fitness and wrinkles and chin hairs and... damn, there I go again. But there's also masses of great things about middle-age as well, it's just they don't tend to piss me off in the same way the other stuff does. It's like that old adage, if you get good service from a shop, you tend to tell an average of two, maybe three people, while bad service will have you spreading the word to at least seven. So, in the interests of balance, and operating under a new ethos of positivity, I've decided to spend some time discussing not just the good things that come with age, but the super-powers. That's right, super-powers - plural. One per week, starting with the grey that matters.

Super-power number one (the middle-aged brain)

The middle-aged brain is a thing of awe, with inductive reasoning, logic, spatial orientation, vocabulary and verbal memory all peaking in middle-age and, for women, the latter two continuing to climb into our sixties (1). It seems that older brains have developed 'cognitive templates', which are better able to predict and navigate life, meaning that the middle-aged brain beats both younger and older brains in such things as managing personal economics, judging true character, and social expertise (no surprises there). In addition the older brain may take a little longer to assimilate new information but when it does, it doesn't just race ahead but manages to take in the bigger picture at the same time (2). That's us, always multi-tasking.

Interestingly, the ready willingness of the middle-aged to blame the temporary loss of car-keys or whatever on a 'senior moment' may be based more on propaganda than fact (3) After all everyone mislays items, all the time, yet you would never find a teenager, for example, blaming their age (instead the typical reaction would be "shit, who the hell took my car-keys? Mum! I can't find my car-keys! Mu-um!"). Besides, when you examine just how much you accomplish over the course of a day it quickly becomes clear that rather than having a 'senior moment', you're having a 'too much on my mind' moment. Which should serve as a sign that you need to sit down, put your feet up and have a glass of champagne. Then you won't need the keys because you can't drive anyway.

Oh, and the catch to this particular super-power is 'use it or lose it', which means that every flick through a trashy magazine, or 1/2 hour spent watching a soapie, (or five minutes with Two and a Half Men), has to be balanced with a crossword, or a suduko, or a viewing of The Lakehouse.

1. Willis et al. (2006). Long-term effects of cognitive training n everyday functional outcomes in older adults.
2. Strauch, B. (2010). Secrets of the grown-up brain. Black Inc. Melbourne.
3. ibid.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thinking of Japan...

In a sense I think we were a little disaster-weary a fortnight ago, having had a summer of fires and floods and earthquakes. A trifle desensitised to the tragedies unfolding beneath the lurid headlines and dramatic reporters. A little numb, albiet wary, and not quite as generous with our concern. And then along came Japan, and a massive earthquake that was itself, imagery-wise, quickly subsumed by the tsunami that followed. Rolling waves of dark water gathering trucks and cars and houses and airplanes like flotsam, pockets of determined fire tossed within the tide, the disembodied, shell-shocked voices of those filming the events, the occasional scream turned gasp turned stunned, disbelieving silence. A reporter, the following day, kept using the word apocalyptic, over and over, as if the English language was limited in the face of such devastation. And perhaps it is.

A modern, thriving, civilized, financially-sound, technologically-advanced country brought to its knees within minutes. Only to find the nightmare broaden to encompass a third disaster, this one with a potential fallout that is mind-numbing in itself. Nuclear - the word jerks as it is spoken, with the first syllable setting the tone for what follows. And we think Chernobyl, reflected across the sad-eyed faces of posthumous children, or Three Mile Island or any of a bevy of armageddon-type movies, with or without Will Smith saving the day. And we shiver, a little, as we should. Time has yet to tell what effect this unfolding disaster will have on the nuclear industry but one can only hope that we live and learn.

In amongst this horrible awfulness, however, for me, was a realisation of something positive. Something that gives me a glimmer of hope while we, as a world, continue blundering blindly forward like the proverbial bull in the china shop. Something that reflects the seismic shift that has taken place in our global consciousness over the past sixty years. Something that drove the immediate and heartfelt outpouring of sympathy and support and compassion from nations across the globe, from Australia to Canada, America to England, Israel to Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Germany, Iceland, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Iceland, Morocco, Mongolia and many, many more. 117 countries to be exact. Including New Zealand, themselves still reeling. And if we can step up to the plate as responsible, compassionate, mature global citizens when the chips are down, then there's no reason we can't do the same when they're not. There's strength in solidarity. And that's the way forward.

Thinking of you, Japan, and sending my very best wishes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day!

Wishing a happy International Women's Day to you all! This is a day to celebrate how far we, as women, have come, while still taking a moment to reflect on how far we've got to go. And for those who think 'psshaw (a sound which, incidentally, I consider shamefully under-used), we first-world females are doing just fine and dandy' (or words to that effect). I include the following three ads as a mini-montage of the past fifty years. And it may - or may not - surprise you to learn that the third one (designed to sell men's suits [?]), was released only in 2008. So unfortunately it's not yet time to rest on our (ever-expanding, in my case) laurels, but nevertheless a day when we should raise a glass, or a mug, and give ourselves a toast. We deserve it. Cheers!