Archive for May, 2008

Dismiss that “Senior Moment” As a Literal Paraphasia, An Older Brain Can Be a Wiser Brain

I was not at all surprised to read in The New York Times article, “Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain,” May 20, 2008, that research finds, instead of brainpower declining with age, “the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.” I’ve often thought this when conversing with my 90 year old friend who continues to paint, read, volunteer and speak (wisely) in front of an audience whenever she has a chance. According to Dr. Hasher, quoted in this article, “A broad attention span may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers.”

While Alzheimer is a reality, striking “13 percent of Americans 65 and older,” the remaining 87 percent do not necessarily suffer the fate of declining brainpower. Keeping active is often said to be the key to maintaining mental agility. Jane E. Brody wrote about this in her column titled “Mental Reserves Keep Brains Agile,” published December 11, 2007 (also previously blogged about here). Sources for this article include Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, author of the book Carved in Sand: When Attention Fails and Memory Fades in Midlife. In researching her book, Ms. Ramin found that new mental challenges were crucial to providing stimulation for the aging brain. “So,” Ms Brody suggests, “if you knit, challenge yourself with more than simply stitched scarves. Try a complicated pattern or garment. Listening to opera is lovely, but learning the libretto (available in most libraries) stimulates more neurons…”

Thank you, Ms. Brody, for suggesting a visit to the library. A library, indeed, is the place to go to look up a more challenging knitting pattern, or the libretto to that lovely opera. But, a skeptic wonders, what about looking things up on the Web? For those not so versed, the library offers courses, and librarians are often available for a little individual training.

However, a minor setback to the optimistic news about the resiliency of an aging brain can be an awareness of a “senior moment.” In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “Behind ‘senior moments’,” May 27, 2008, I learned about an unscientific name for a variety of mental glitches, — literal paraphasia . Perhaps the most common “literal paraphasias” are a temporary inability to recall a name, number, or even what you were about to do. Seems to me, you don’t have to be an aging adult to experience a momentary mental glitch. Why not forgo the negative associations that come with the term “senior moment” and instead come to terms with an occasional literal paraphasia?

Guest Blogger: Iris Finkel
MLS Student, Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science


May 30, 2008 at 4:23 pm 1 comment

The Senior Center Steps Lively? The Library is Lively Already.

The need for innovation in senior centers continues to be a rallying point for administrations throughout the United States. This topic is addressed in The New York Times article,  “Its Appeal Slipping, the Senior Center Steps Livelier,” March 25, 2008. Competition to attract an aging baby boomer population anticipated by experts as unwilling to visit outdated senior centers has resulted in the necessity to revamp these centers. New services are being offered — including fitness activities, continuing education, volunteer and work opportunities for those not ready for retirement, and more — all in an accommodating environment, without looking institutional.

Libraries, too, are in the process of being revamped to meet the needs of an aging population. Yet, many of the services being discussed have been provided by libraries all along. Library programs and events such as training courses, book clubs and movies, are offered to educate and entertain, independent research is encouraged and supported, and resources for volunteer and work opportunities are readily available. Libraries should, and often do, serve as community centers. Shouldn’t libraries be tapped into more to provide guidance for, and alternatives to, the new models of senior centers being devised? Furthermore, libraries may be better positioned to come up with more palatable nomenclature for an aging baby boomer population who would rather not see themselves as such.

The Pierce County Library System in Washington and the Cumberland County Public Library in North Carolina are examples of libraries working to serve this population in innovative ways.

Guest Blogger: Iris Finkel
MLS Student, Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science

May 14, 2008 at 4:44 pm 1 comment


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