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.

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