As I was sitting listening to our various conversations around the table, something struck me as different this year. We’re all hovering around 50—give or take a couple years—and the aging process is beginning to take a more prominent seat at the table. Not only do conversation topics start with the premise of aging: declining health, the cost of health insurance, etc, but it seems that no matter what the topic, it eventually touches on something to do with aging.
Like one friend who just got a puppy. We talked about puppy breath and poop-smeared clothing and keeping the dog Parvo-free. But then everyone admits that our dogs provide motivation to keep body and mind healthy: “If it weren’t for those daily dog walks, I would die of stress and/or flab.” The dog replaces natural motivation that goes out the window with age.
As for noticing memory loss… There wasn’t one young woman around the table that didn’t show some sign of memory loss, as these conversation snippets illustrate:
First woman: “There’s a new restaurant there? How long has it been there?”
Second woman: “Oh, it’s pretty new. Only a few months.”
Third woman: “A couple weeks, actually.”
First woman: “I love the sunflowers theme of this party!”
Second woman: “I loved last year’s theme: birds.”
Me, thinking to myself, there was a theme last year? These parties have a theme?
My favorite was the conversation in which one mom asked another, “Were your babies born bald?” The other mom thinks and says, “Am I a bad mom if I don’t remember?” The first mom says “My son was two and still bald.” She then searches her phone for a photo and produces one of her son, aged eighteen months, with a full head of hair.
And so it went.
It’s undeniable. We’re aging.
The problem with this year’s party, however, was not that we are showing signs of aging, but that I am becoming more and more attuned to the “sings” whenever we get together. My focus is the problem. We had a good time, but what am I writing about here? Our declining selves!
My brother-in-law told me last Saturday that he really enjoys this blog, except that it’s depressing. I told him I have the same conflict: I like writing these posts, but I’m afraid of making the deficits associated with aging the focus of this blog, and therefore am trying to distance myself from it. The reason for the title of this site, after all, was that I believe the attitude of the mind can win over the status of the brain. We can see signs of decline and choose to go that way, or we can see signs of continued learning and choose to keep learning.
Academy for the Aging Brain
With the above as background, I watched 60 Minutes Sunday night and learned of a fantastic tool for expanding the brain at any age. It’s called the Khan Academy—an online collection of short tutorials on all kinds of subjects including math, art history, biology. It all started with one guy tutoring his niece via Youtube uploads and has grown into a virtual academy used around the world with the purpose of providing free education for anyone, anywhere. Even Bill Gates has used it to educate his children.
I checked out khanacademy.com this morning and decided that I’m going to start watching one tutorial a day from now on. I’m going to learn stuff! Get mastery over calculus even! Onward and upward!
Here was my first tutorial–The Anatomy of a Neuron. One down, a few thousand to go!
I hope you find this a great tool for continued learning as well.