Mid-life growth calls for sensitivity to stereotypes about aging. One stereotype is that we take longer to learn and resist learning new things.
About 8 years ago, a New York Times article supported a theory I’ve held for years. As we get older, our brain holds more and more data. So we just have more to process. That’s why we may forget more easily.
I used to remember phone numbers of just about everyone I know. Now I just know a lot more people. I call them a lot less frequently. Now I text. And of course I use speed dials and auto-dials.
But, says the Times, aging brains also have a broader context to place new information. We remember parallel events that took place years ago. We process information more thoroughly, so we appear to be reading and taking in new information more slowly.
My own view is: When you look at a group of 14-year-olds of a certain socioeconomic class, you’ll find many similarities. They’ll be in school. They’ll have certain physical capabilities
But a group of 54-year-olds and 64-year-olds will have enormous variation. Just look around your local fitness center. Some folks are walking around in a little circle, moving slowly to the music. Others are running marathons.
People have wide variation in brainpower as they get older, too.
It’s also true that we tax our brains less. When was the last time you studied for an exam? Even if your job is intellectually demanding, your mental pathways have been smoothed by use. You’re in familiar territory.
It’s also easy to blame cognitive errors on age. Rather than say, “I’m having a senior moment,” why not say simply, “I forgot.” Or even, “I always forget that name. It’s Freudian.”
Ultimately, we have to take charge of our own destinies as we get older, not depending on external forces for solutions to jobs and other challenges. If we listen to “what everyone knows,” we won’t have a good outcome.