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
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