How to become Superager

Face it, getting older is a fact of life.  But how sharp you are as you age is not a slam dunk.  Think about the 65 year old and older people you know.  Do they all joke about “senior” moments? Seem to accept that dwindling attention and forgetfulness are a necessary part of getting older? 

Not so!  In a recent article in the New York Times, Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, describes the phenomenon that brain researchers are calling Superaging.  I don’t know about you but if there is such a thing, I’m all over it. So, what the heck is Superaging, and how can you become a Superager?

First a little about the brain and how it works.  What are commonly thought of as the “emotional” areas of the brain are now known to be major hubs for general communication throughout the brain.   Research indicates the thicker these regions of the cortex are, the better a person’s performance will be on tests of memory and attention.

The big question is how do you become a Superager? Which activities, if any, can increase your chances of remaining sharp into old age? Believe it or not the answer seems to be that you need to work hard at something. Researchers have concluded that you can keep these critical regions thick and healthy through vigorous mental and physical exercise.

Before you conclude, heck I can do that, at least occasionally—you need to know the road to Superaging is difficult.  Make that darned hard.  It appears that exercising these brain regions requires focused, intense effort which leaves you tired and often frustrated.  Superagers are like Marines. They—and their brains—thrive on challenging physical and mental exertion. Think about the Marine Corp motto: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” 

Forget about those funky puzzles like Suduko and various other brain game websites.  Nope, like any other muscle the only way you can keep the brain in shape is through strenuous,  demanding physical and mental exercise. The old adage is as true for brains as it is for flabby butt muscles or a flat-tire waistline.  If you don’t use it, and use it hard, you lose it.

I’m encouraged.  Like other full-time authors, I know it takes mental energy and hard work to write a book--and continue to do it every day of the year! I know how difficult and often frustrating it is to put those 2000 words a day on the page.  So I have the mental activity covered.  I also am a committed fitness enthusiast (make that addict?). I run at least six miles a day and lift weights.  I’m seventy-two years old and now that I know what it takes, I might actually be working my way to Superaging.  I sure hope so.  Now if I can just remember where I put my car keys!