Monday, September 13, 2010

Why Some Old People Are Still in Mint Mental Condition, While Others Are Not?

The other day I read an article about the oldest virgin alive. She's a 107 year old Chinese woman. After a lifetime, she has finally decided to get married. She decided to look for a husband because she feels that she is becoming a burden to her nieces and nephews - the youngest is 60. 'My problem is that I can't get about like I used to,' Miss Guiying said. 'I broke my leg when I was 102 and I had to stop doing the chores like washing my clothes.'I'm 107 and I'm still not married. What will happen if I don't hurry up and find a husband?' She accepts that her husband will have to be younger than her, mainly because she can't find anyone older. So the ideal candidate will be somewhere in his 90s!


When most people start to age, they slowly begin to lose their mind. They begin to forget, their thoughts becomes clouded. They are no longer able to solving problems or tackle complex issues. By the age of 70 their mental capacity enters a downward tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, the cognitive capacity of an infant awaits. Soon they become a bedridden corpse.

On the other hand, other people, like the 107 year old Virgin, remain very sharp as they age. They are still observant, are able to build an argument, debate it, and logically counter argue. Their ability to critically think and solve problems remains intact. In very rare cases, they are even physically capable to care for themselves.

So what is it that polarizes the elderly? What is it that makes some sharp and others lose their mind? Some of my thoughts are as follows:

At first I thought the main reason was exercise. Exercise keeps your body lean and fit. Most doctors point to exercise as a main reason of longevity. Hand in hand with a exercise comes a good healthy balanced diet. Doctors say exercise can add up to 3 years to your life, while not-smoking can add up to 14 years. As the expression goes: A sound mind, is in a sound body. However, I have seen people that were in peak physical shape throughout their lives, but their mind deteriorated nonetheless. So that can't be the key. There must be something else.

Then, I thought that the key is a belief or a purpose that gives meaning to life. People who keep themselves busy with a certain project when they get old, they continue to have a purpose. They spend their time plotting and moving towards an ultimate goal. They feel fulfilled, look forward to the future, and hope for success. Often positive thinking also accompanies belief and a purpose, which doctors say can add upto 7 years to your life. One with strong aspirations spends his mental capacity planning. He spends his time studying. He also spends his time in a social circle discussing intellectual topics and debating. A belief and purpose is not doubt an important factor in longevity. However I've also seen religious people, as well as business men and leaders lose their mind towards the end of their life too. So what is it then?

After some reflection and conversation, I've drawn the conclusion that the single most important thing that mentally fit elderly people share is a constant practice of critical thinking. It is the continuous working out of the brain muscle that keeps it intact when one gets old. Just like exercise keeps your body fit, working out your brain with stimulus keeps your mind in mint condition.

There are many ways to give your brain a good work out. Some old people say a good exercise is to randomly memorize phone numbers and recite them from memory. Others do simple math calculations, such as multiplying the first 2 numbers and last 2 numbers of a phone number. Reading also keeps the brain challenged with new ideas. Engaging a social group in which one can debate and learn strengthens mental capacity. There are also plenty of brain games available, such as puzzles and riddles. 

1 comment:

  1. احفظ الله يحفظك

    كان العبد الصالح أبو الطيب الطبري قد جاوز المائة سنة، وهو ممتع بعقله وقوته وكافة حواسه،

    حتى أنه سافر ذات مرة مع رفقة له فلما اقتربت السفينة من الشاطئ وثب منها وثبة شديدة، عجز عنها بقية الذين كانوا معه على السفينة فاستغرب بعضهم هذه القوة الجسدية التي منحها الله إياه، مع كبر سنة وشيخوخته،

    فقال لهم الطبري:

    "هذه جوارح حفظناها عن المعاصي في الصغر، فحفظها الله علينا في الكبر !!"

    "البداية والنهاية" لابن كثير


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