John Zeisel on ‘hopeful aging’
Jul 7, 2013
Creative means discovery, creative means learning, creative means invention, creative means comprehension.
We’re always in search of understanding.
You can’t learn, be innovative, discover, be creative with banality.
Playing bingo isn’t going to cut it. It’s not interesting enough.
Looking at a Matisse and saying, “What is this painting about?” — that’s interesting enough.
Sudoku, crossword puzzles — mental exercise is not what I’m talking about.
It doesn’t do it. The term that’s used for those is ‘cognitive stimulation.’
You don’t need cognitive stimulation. You have to have meaning in your life. If it’s meaningful, it will stimulate you.
Is there anything else we can do to help our brains age well?
The basic three are sleep, diet and exercise.
The second level of intervention is stress reduction and creative endeavors: the arts, learning. The learning can be anything. It can be based on aptitudes and skills you already have, or you can also learn new skills. All kinds of learning are as essential as stress reduction.
The biggest misconception is that people with dementia can’t learn.
There are four learning systems in the brain.
One is called episodic learning: there’s an event in my life and I remember what happened.
The second is semantic learning, like learning a word out of context.
Then there’s emotional learning, which revolves around relating to others.
Then the final one is procedural learning, which we learn by repetition, by doing something. It’s how you learn to ride a bike or sign your signature.
People with dementia lose some ability with the first two, but they do not lose their abilities for emotional and procedural learning.
To Keep Your Brain Nimble As You Age, Stretch It