How to Stay Mentally Sharp and Fulfilled as You Age – Daniel Levitin on The Art of Manliness, Hosted By Brett McKay

Check out the Art of Manliness Episode Page and Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • “60 is the new 40 and 80 is the new 60”Daniel Levitin
  • “Statistically, older adults are happier. In fact, across 60 different countries, the peak age of happiness occurs around 82.” Daniel Levitin
  • Older people are better at seeing patterns—they have more information and experiences to draw on
  • As people age, they become more conservative, leaving them with a preference towards the familiar
  • “The biggest predictor of how well you age is conscientiousness” Daniel Levitin
  • There are two scientifically-backed ways to keep your memory strong:
    • 1) Keep your social circle active and interact with others daily
    • 2) MOVE every day

Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Daniel Levitin (@danlevitin) is an American-Canadian cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist, writer, musician, and record producer 
  • Host: Brett McKay (@brettmckay)

Daniel’s Research into Successful Aging

  • Noticing that certain people age better than others led Daniel to research & write his latest book, Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives
    • For instance, Daniel has several colleagues in their 90s who are sharp as ever. Others, meanwhile, are in their 60s and have extreme trouble focusing on their work.
    • Not being able to find any decent books on aging, Daniel “wrote the book he wanted to read”
  • Ageism definitely exists in our society (discrimination based on a person’s age)
    • (Germany, for instance, has a mandatory retirement age of 67)
  • It’s important to realize that old age isn’t always associated with a decline in intelligence/happiness
    • “60 is the new 40 and 80 is the new 60” – Daniel Levitin

The Pros & Cons of Old Age

  • At any age, the brain is constantly rewiring itself
    • Because of this older people are better at seeing patterns—they have more information and experiences to draw on
      • Building off of this, if you think you have cancer are looking for a radiologist, you’d want an older doctor—they’d likely have better pattern matching abilities
        • Further, the best judges, police detectives, and FBI agents all tend to be older than their junior colleagues
  • Older individuals tend to have a harder time adopting new technologies—as people age, they become more conservative, leaving them with a preference towards the familiar
  •  General thinking speed tends to slow down with each decade past age 40

The Aging Process

  • As children, we want to acquire as much information as possible to become self-sufficient
  • As young adults, we want to discover things about ourselves, such as what we do/don’t like
  • As adults, we focus on our careers and building a family 
  • As older parents or grandparents, we become less interested in exploration (we already know what we like!)
    • For instance, rather than trying a new restaurant, older adults prefer to stick with the food they know they enjoy
    • Further, older individuals would rather bond with a long-time friend than try to meet new people
      • Older people know they have less time left in life, and would rather make safe bets (it’s safer to spend time with an old friend instead of hanging out with someone new whose company you might not enjoy)

Conscientiousness Is Key

  • “The biggest predictor of how well you age is conscientiousness” Daniel Levitin
    • Conscientiousness people go to the doctor when they’re sick, and when the doctor gives them medicine, they take it
    • Conscientiousness people think ahead and save money for retirement
    • And good news: You can “become more conscientious, even at the age of 60 or 70”
  • In the meantime, start thinking about your future TODAY—take care of your health, eat healthy, exercise, and save money for retirement

How to Improve Your Memory

  • There’s virtually no evidence that brain training games, crossword puzzles, and other games (like sudoku) improve your memory
    • “If you do crossword puzzles, you simply get better at doing crossword puzzles” – Daniel Levitin
  • There are two scientifically-backed ways to keep your memory strong:
    • 1) Keep your social circle active and interact with others daily (in real life, not via text)
      • If you’re an older person who doesn’t have many friends: go to church, join a book club, volunteer at nonprofits, take part in community events, etc.
    • 2) MOVE every day (stretching, walking, exercise, etc.)
  • One of the best things we can do for our brain is to explore new environments, especially in nature
    • (Walking through Central Park is great, but exploring a nearby hiking trail is even better)

On the Hippocampus

  • “The hippocampus is the seed of memory” Daniel Levitin
    • If one’s hippocampus is damaged, it becomes hard to create new memories and retrieve old ones
  • The hippocampus evolved to help you map & navigate through the world
    • Therefore, to keep it in tip-top shape, every now and then, avoid using Google Maps (if you can)

Additional Notes

  • Exercise is great for heart health
  • “Statistically, older adults are happier. In fact, across 60 different countries, the peak age of happiness occurs around 82.” Daniel Levitin
Art of Manliness : , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

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