Advances in medical science, improved living conditions, and changing lifestyles have undoubtedly contributed to an increase in human lifespan over the years. As a result, the concept of old age is being redefined
According to Professor Ian Robertson, Emeritus Professor of Psychology and the founding Director of Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Dublin, the concept of old age has shifted. Biologically and psychologically, it now begins at 80, providing a longer period of approximately 30 years, from around age 50 to 80, that requires a new approach to living.
The Guardian reports that Professor Robertson commenced his study on the impact of age on the brain in 1984. At that time, the average age of stroke victims was 72. However, by 1999, the average age had increased to around 82. This 15-year period revealed how people had become, in many ways, around 10 years younger.
He pointed out that the human brain is malleable throughout all stages of life, shaped by experiences, learning, and thinking. In ancient Rome, life expectancy was only 22 years, but Europeans at the beginning of the 20th century could anticipate a lifespan of 50 years.
Professor Robertson proposed a seven-point plan to ensure a youthful old age:
1. Aerobic fitness emerged as a paramount factor influencing brain function and structure. Regular exercise that raises the heart rate not only improves physical health but also has positive effects on cognitive abilities.
2. Mental stimulation was identified as a vital strategy for reducing cognitive decline. Engaging in activities that challenge the mind, such as puzzles, learning new skills, or pursuing creative endeavors, can keep the brain sharp and agile.
3. Professor Robertson underscored the importance of ongoing learning and its profound physiological impact on the brain. He pointed out that “The more you learn, the more you can learn,” thus encouraging continuous growth and development throughout life.
4. The research also revealed that high and prolonged stress has detrimental effects, particularly on human memory. Implementing stress-reducing techniques and finding healthy coping mechanisms can help preserve cognitive functions.
5. Cultivating a rich social life was found to be beneficial for preserving mental sharpness over time. Meaningful social interactions, maintaining friendships, and participating in community activities can contribute to a sense of purpose and overall well-being.
6. The significance of healthy eating, including a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish, cannot be overstated. This dietary approach has profound effects on reducing cognitive decline in later life and supporting both physical and mental health.
Finally, Professor Robertson encouraged the adoption of a positive and youthful mindset. A positive outlook on life can influence how we perceive aging and its potential limitations, enabling us to embrace the later years with enthusiasm and optimism.
By following Professor Robertson’s seven-point plan, we can navigate the later years with vigour and vitality, ensuring a fulfilling and enriching experience well into old age.