Sixty-something today has a completely different meaning today. In fact, it actually means being at your healthiest. Perhaps sixty-something could mean having more opportunities than ever before. You’re not getting old. We’re being for real here. Think about 60-year-olds today, they often do the things 40-year-olds used to do. Moreover, it’s no longer a shock to hear about people working well into their 80’s. Scientists believe this is because human lifespans might eventually extend to 150 or beyond. Insane right? So all those few of you who are sixty-something, you’re technically spring chickens.
Experts in cognitive psychology are attempting to translate brain science for the public. This is so that we can better understand the neuroscience of aging and why it is changing. That moment when you get frustrated at yourself for losing your keys again. Or not being able to remember your friend’s name. Try not to beat yourself up over it. Even worse, don’t blame your age! Neuroscience is discovering that us, sixty-something folk are actually just as smart now as we were in our youth.
You see, the study of the brain is a complex one. Mainly because we are always learning more about it and how it works. Information is ever-changing. It’s a rapidly fast area of expertise and lots to study. Studies claim that two-thirds of the people over 65 who have ever lived are alive today (and three-quarters of those over 75). So there’s definitely evidence that we’re healthier and living much longer than before. We’re just as smart, if not more so too.
Sixty Something Is Not What You Expect
We need to start creating new perceptions of age in our minds. You can no longer picture stereotypical images of old frail ladies with walking sticks. Or grouchy old men in armchairs. Recent science argues for a very different vision of old age that sees our final decades as a resurgence. Maybe this is the time we truly live life. Perhaps we’re reborn when we reach sixty-something.
However, there’s no doubt that there are going to be a few physical differences between an 80-year-olds and a 30-year-olds. But mentally there are some distinct advantages. For example, when you hit sixty-something you have much better control over your impulses. You also have the ability to delay gratification, to get along with others and make better decisions. This has a significant impact on the way your life unfolds.
I bet you wouldn’t believe us if we told you that life after 75 can be a period of true intellectual growth? It is. According to research, at 80, the great cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practise so much. His reply was: ‘Because I want to get better!’ Casals believed self-improvement was possible at any age — and we agree. In fact, after you’ve reached sixty-something it’s been known to be a decade of true happiness. Why? Surveys show that aging and happiness often form a U-shaped curve. This is because the line dips slowly from your youth to your middle years. It then rises to your 40s and 50s.
However, about 1 in 3 people at sixty-something say they’re ‘very happy.’ This is a bit more than those under 35. this is probably because you’ve finally learned to embrace all the good times and know that bad times will pass. However, the sixty-something decade can be difficult too. It depends on whether or not you choose to focus on those things. Sure, getting older can bring new challenges, like health, money worries and also the deaths of loved ones
Sixty-Something Seems To Be A Happy Time
This is not just because of their ability to be patient or embrace the good times. It’s also because their brains, neurologically speaking, have gotten smarter and more aware. More often than not, whenever people are asked to pinpoint when in life they were happiest. If you ask any younger person most of them won’t be able to tell you that they feel completely happy or content due to some worry or another.
Most people state that 82 is their happiest. I mean, wow, that’s quite interesting. Is it really possible that we have to go our whole lives to truly learn what sustained happiness feels like? That’s why neuroscientists are trying to help raise that number by ten or even 20 years. Apparently, science says it can be done.
Busting Myths About Age
Thanks to Dr Daniel Levitin for the Daily Mail, we’ve got some myth-busting research to prove this. In fact, when you reach sixty-something, you are very far from losing your mind because in your golden years you are just entering our prime. Dr Daniel’s myth is:
MYTH: Memory declines steeply with age.
REALITY: It declines far less than you think.
Dr Daniel explains that the difference between a short-term memory lapse in a 70-year-old and one in a 20-year-old isn’t what you think. He adds that he’s taught undergraduates his entire career. And they make all kinds of short-term memory errors. In fact, they will walk into the wrong classroom; turn up to exams without a pencil; forget something that he taught two minutes ago. Guess what? These are very similar to the kinds of things 70-year-olds do. Or so we think.
What’s the difference between a twenty-something and a sixty-something mindset? Well, they each describe their memory loss differently. For example, a twenty-something will just think that there’s a lot going on in their head. Or maybe they just need some more sleep. Whereas, when you reach an older age, your first thought is that you might be losing it. Like, you’ve got to be experiencing early-onset Alzheimer’s. Why is our first reaction simply to question the state of our brain’s health?
Sixty-Something And The Brain Is Working Hard
You’d be surprised at how life experience makes the brain significantly more powerful and smarter, and probably healthier. That’s just it though, as you experience more life. It brings you more wisdom. You are more likely to be in touch with what does or doesn’t bring you joy and to be able to make choices accordingly. That’s the benefit of entering life as a sixty-something. We need to question why we have this perception of our elders as frail, forgetful, demented or even lost.
We’re not saying that Alzheimer’s and dementia-related memory impairments are not real. They are very real and very tragic. But just because you experience a burst of forgetfulness, in your short-term memory doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got a biological disorder.
What About Forgetting Words?
According to neuroscientist Deborah Burke, of the Project on Cognition and Ageing at Pomona College, in California. When older sixty-something adults find it difficult to retrieve individual words, this is a by-product of atrophy in the left insula of the brain. This is the region associated with the phonological form of the word. What does this mean?
It means that at sixty-something, we don’t actually forget the word itself, just the sound of it. Burke says this is why it feels as if it’s there on the tip of our tongues. That’s why as soon as somebody says the word, we recognise it immediately – which means we have not forgotten the word. You wouldn’t recognise the word at all if you’d forgotten it.
So, as a matter of fact, we should be more gracious to our elders and sixty-something mentors. When they forget a word, note that they haven’t forgotten it. It’s time to let go of those stereotypical grumpy old woman perceptions we’ve got going. We think that’s probably why you get more tolerant and forgiving with age
Memory May Not Decline With Normal Aging
It is possible that as you age and reach your sixty-something point in life, you might start to notice that your mind might not feel quite as sharp as before. But this doesn’t necessarily mean your memory is declining. It might just mean you’re taking slightly longer to recall names and facts, recognize patterns, or solve problems. However, on the upside, your vocabulary, knowledge, and long-term memory will likely only improve.
Recent studies state that the adult hippocampus is a part of the brain crucial to memory storage and retrieval. Apparently, this part of the brain grows 700 new neurons a day on average. Moreover, there seems to be no decline in that number with normal ageing. This same study conducted by Dr Daniel Levitin presents the following two myths:
MYTH: Older people are grumpy.
REALITY: Sixty-something folks are more affable than under-50s.
Let’s face it. There is a common perception that you’ll enter a grumpy old man or woman phase in your sixty-something years. On the contrary, In fact, sixty-something adults are generally more concerned with making a good impression. They are more co-operative and get on easily with others. Moreover, this same study discovered that the chemical changes in the brain as it ages are more empathetic. Sixty-something people are often more understanding, forgiving, tolerant and accepting.
What’s even more interesting is how mood disorders, anxiety and behavioural problems decrease in the sixty-something years. These kinds of problems generally don’t happen in your later years. I suppose we start to wisen up as we age and things don’t feel as overwhelming because we know how to handle them. You should have formulated coping mechanisms into your sixty-something years. Interestingly, some people even describe their sixty-something years as a time of ‘burning off’ their previously distressing mental states.
Take the singer and poet Leonard Cohen. He was amazed that his chronic depression, which no medication had been able to relieve, disappeared when he reached his 70s.
Power Is Practical Intelligence
You see as you hit your sixty-something years, your brain level of practical intelligence peaks. Dealing with challenging situations in life happen often and those in their sixty-something years deal with them better than those younger than them. Logically we would just call this wisdom, which comes with age. However, in neuroscience wisdom is the ability to see patterns where others don’t. It is when you are able to extract generalised common points from past experiences. Then you can use these to predict what is likely to happen next. That sounds pretty intelligent to me.
More importantly, we have the incredible ability to learn as we age. It’s a myth to say that we can’t continue learning. It just requires more time and patience and consistency to learn new things at the sixty-something mark and older.
Sleep Is Just Sleep
Don’t get us wrong, sleep is vital to our health. However, just because you’re getting older and you’ve reached those sixty-something years doesn’t mean you’ve got to sleep more.
Truth is that all of us, young or old, require at least eight hours of sleep a day. We all differ in our requirements, but as soon as you get less than five hours you’ll start showing major impairment. In fact, when we reach sixty-something and older we don’t need more sleep. It’s the changes in the ageing brain that make it difficult for older adults to get the sleep they need. Changes in neurochemistry, disruption of core body temperature rhythms and more frequent urination all lead to poor sleep quality and quantity.
Ultimately you want to make sleep a priority throughout your life despite your age. And when it is difficult to sleep, prioritize it even more. Poor sleep can increase the risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
The bottom line is that when you’re in your sixty-something years you need to prioritise sleep and practise good sleep habits. You also need to use your brain because it’s wiser and sharper than you think. Probably more so than ever before.
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Dr Daniel Claims 70-Year-Olds And 20-Year-Olds Make Similar Memory Errors. The Daily Mail. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-7984305/Youre-just-smart-youth-70-really-new-30.html
Cognition and Aging Lab. Pomona College. http://www.lcs.pomona.edu/cogaging/
Could your 60s and 70s be the best decades of life? The guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/membership/2017/feb/20/retirement-60s-best-decade-life-ageing-joy
What To Expect In Your Sixties. WebMD. https://www.theguardian.com/membership/2017/feb/20/retirement-60s-best-decade-life-ageing-joy