Karen Telleen-Lawton: a dilettante’s delight | Homes and Lifestyle
What the fuck are those little green vegetables that look like mini cabbage? Yesterday I couldn’t remember the word for Brussels sprouts; last week it was a friend at Trader Joe’s whose name came out of my mind. A few months ago, I forgot the property tax. It cost me a pretty penny.
Most of us worry about losing brain function as we age. However, we have all been successful in battling cognitive loss from early adulthood. Laura T. Germine, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, published research in 2015 showing that processing speed peaks in late adolescence.
Short-term memory of names and faces is best between ages 22 and 30, and vocabulary acquisition levels off somewhere between ages 50 and 65.
Germine and co-author Joshua K. Hartshorne could take the half-empty glass inference that we are all on the road to senility. Instead, they optimistically conclude, “Not only is there no age at which humans perform all cognitive tasks to the maximum, but there may not be an age at which humans are. maximum for most cognitive tasks.
Scientists find neurological support for what is commonly attributed to older people: wisdom.
Author Rich Karlgaard (“Late Bloomers: The Hidden Strengths of Learning and Succeeding at Your Own Pace”) writes: “Our brains are constantly forming neural networks and pattern recognition abilities that we did not have in our youth when we had power. dazzling synaptic. “
The accumulated skills of the elderly compensate for the loss of speed and memory. Plus, adults can cultivate this wisdom in a safer way than buying memory pills online. Researchers Rachel wu, George W. Rebok and Feng Vankee Lin Discover six ways seniors can improve their general cognitive skills over the long term. They identify:
1. Open-minded, input-driven learning
2. Individualized scaffolding
3. Spirit of growth
4. Indulgent environment
5. Serious commitment to learning
6. Learn multiple skills simultaneously
Each factor deserves to be analyzed, but the last result surprised and interested me. It seems that people learn best when they tackle several new skills at once.
In the study, adults over 55 instructed to acquire three new skills, “not only acquired skills in these areas, but improved their cognitive functioning overall, including working and episodic memory. “.
I have enjoyed being a serial neophyte for the past decade and more. I started stand-up paddle boarding when I was over half a century old, although now I sometimes lack the strength to drag the board to the beach and through the waves. I returned to fencing for a season after almost 40 years, even though it was tough on the knees. This has led to a new practice of yoga, where my mountain pose is only surpassed by excellent Shavasana.
My peasant kombucha, kefir, and nasturtium capers attest to my learning in fermented foods like natural probiotics. More fulfilling, I now play a musical instrument, a dream since childhood of the piano. Over the past five years, I have happily added my saxophone sounds to the Prime Time Tape.
Every new skill I learn comes with no expectation of becoming an expert. As Margo Talbot written in The New Yorker: “If you think of dilettantism as an approval of learning for the sake of learning … what’s not to like? “
She continues, “Being willing to get involved in something you are mediocre at but which you inherently appreciate, to surrender to the imperfect pursuit of something you would like to know how to do for no particular reason, seems like a small form of resistance. . “
I have yet to try to learn three new skills at once. It sounds intimidating. It may be that hyper learning preserves some synapses, but it also seems more stressful than fun. I feel a little reluctant to be a triple beginner.
– Karen Telleen-Lawton serves seniors and pre-seniors as director of Fee-only financial advice in Santa Barbara. You can reach her with your financial planning questions at [email protected]. Click here to read the previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.