Talking ourselves – and others – into the ‘inevitable’ infirmities of old age

April 16, 2020 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism.

In early December, I tripped and wound up with a small fracture in my kneecap. The result was that I limped around for a couple of months but managed to maintain some of my normal walking schedule.

One morning, a person I regularly see on our walks asked me what  happened, and I told her.

“Well, that’s what happens to us when we get older,” she said.

My accident, I was tempted to explain, had nothing to do with age. I remember tripping a lot when I was six years old. But I refrained, not wanting to be rude. Still, I was irritated.

Now that I have managed to pile up more than an average number of birthdays, I have become increasingly sensitive — irritated — at the way that people in our culture blame age for whatever seems to go wrong.

It’s not just physical capacity that is shadowed by age. It’s mental functioning, too. I have found a soul brother in Dr. Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist, who wrote Everyone Knows Memory Fails as You Age. But Everyone Is Wrong  an article in the New York Times recently. In it he discusses the commonplace things that we might forget.

The relevant difference is not age but rather how we describe these events, the stories we tell ourselves about them. Twenty-year-olds don’t think, “Oh dear, this must be early-onset Alzheimer’s.” They think, “I’ve got a lot on my plate right now” or “I really need to get more than four hours of sleep.” The 70-year-old observes these same events and worries about her brain health. This is not to say that Alzheimer’s- and dementia-related memory impairments are fiction — they are very real — but every lapse of short-term memory doesn’t necessarily indicate a biological disorder. Source: Opinion | Everyone Knows Memory Fails as You Age. But Everyone Is Wrong. – The New York Times

Levitin is on target with everything he says. Our “senior moments” are moments that are not necessarily senior. They are moments that we are likely to have at any point in our lives.

Read Levitin’s article. More importantly, stop attributing every physical stumble and every moment of forgetfulness to age. When you do that, you are more than likely wrong.

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