I was recently hired to deliver two presentations for Welcyon…Fitness After 50 in Minneapolis. The topic was “Boost Your Brain Power,” and a portion of the presentation was spent sharing the results of research on neuroplasticity (how the brain can rewire itself) and details on the benefits of exercise to both physical and brain fitness. Over 150 current and prospective club members were both interested and engaged in the topic, but were more interested in the reality that memory loss is not a given.
In addition to scientific research results, I shared the damage that can be done by aging stereotypes if they become self-fulfilling prophecies. We now know that memory loss is the number one fear of adults over age 65, and all too many blindly accept that memory loss is just a part of aging. Once accepted, that belief can accelerate what they fear. I opened by asking how many frequently use the term senior moment and a majority in both locations responded in the affirmative. Of course, I advised them all to cease and desist.
Thanks to Harvard researcher Ellen Langer PhD and Yale’s Becca Levy PhD, we now know that a negative aging self-image can contribute to both memory loss and premature aging. In spite of a growing body of evidence on the benefits positive/active aging programs, our society chooses to spend more time and tax money focusing on the negatives of the growing aging population rather than the positives. We have never had this much wisdom available for problem solving; yet we aren’t finding ways to use it.
While preventing Alzheimer’s disease is a worthy goal, so is educating an aging population on the benefits of exercise, brain fitness and how it may be possible to delay memory loss by building what is known as a cognitive reserve. Success in this area alone would provide a huge return on investment. Doesn’t it make more sense to promote activities and information that could prevent or delay future memory loss than worrying how to pay for future healthcare?
Following the presentations, numerous attendees offered congratulations and said they felt renewed and more in control of their own future following the presentation. Not a bad return on a 45 minute investment of their time. They also wondered why more organizations are not sponsoring professional presentations of this type to share the message of positive aging. I encourage them to become evangelists and preach the power positive aging.