Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Age-Related Positivity Effect

For all those young, vibrant youths that bemoan the approach of thirty as if it were a death sentence, maybe they are on to something. Apparently, the brain begins to lose its fluidity as the neurons start to chill out and fire with less speed after age 25. To make matters worse, male fertility peaks at age 20 (what idiot designed it that way?) while female eggs are at their freshest and best up to 28 years old.

Most senior women would decline to bear a child even if they could, although the over 50 male sometimes struts his stuff like proud peacock if he can land a young babe with child-bearing urges. We older women love to play with the adorable little ones and then send them home so that their young mothers and fathers can lose a night's sleep. Our old bones need to regenerate in slumber, by the way - and we did pay our dues.

In this complex array of physical realities, growing old does have one wonderful benefit. Studies have shown that the older brain, while seemingly slower and famously forgetful, actually seems to be but is not - because that brain has so much more life experience that it simply takes the software longer to retrieve words and events. The wheels of the search engines must spin a few more times in order to produce that abundance of vocabulary. Barring serious diseases like Alzheimers, our brain is like the public library in New York City, while a twenty-something's bank of knowledge resides in the wee library of Podunk, USA.

Buoyed by new findings of German scientists, (no, it wasn't rediscovered data of Dr. Josef Mengele) it seems that we seniors also remember life events with a more benign overview. Maybe the ups and downs of life have made us so dizzy that getting off the merry-go-round becomes the best idea. Or that pesky mother-in-law who died twenty years ago is now recalled with appreciation for the goose liver paté she brought on her bi-annual visit and not for the knife-like judgments she freely dumped on her son and daughter-in-law's heads.

So for the young beautiful ones who bemoan the future loss of flawlessly smooth skin and tight abs, there will be benefits. You will fret less and enjoy more. 

Maybe there is a God after all.

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