Getting Old vs. Being Old, Part II: Cognitive Decline

cometazzi

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I turn 48 next Wednesday. I'll be sure to call Mom and talk to her a bunch, because it's her Special Day too.

Meanwhile, I've thought a lot about this part lately... Physically I'm fine, but I feel as though I've lost my 'mojo'. Not so much the part about attracting ladies, but that fire of youth, the drive of one's life, the push that makes things happen. In all my college Psychology classes they would say that cognitive and motivational abilities peak around age 24, and then decline thereafter. From that point, a person shifts from fluid intelligence to crystallized intelligence, and while 'wisdom' sets in and is useful, the ability to learn new things wanes.

Call me stubborn, but I refuse to believe that.

I can think of various points in my life where a certain phenomenon has happened. When I was 11 or 12, I got my first computer (Commodore C=16). I learned how to program in BASIC almost overnight, and got good at it, for whatever that is worth. It was eclipsed at age 14 when I got a guitar. In the spring of 1989 my High School English Teacher showed me some chords and loaned me a Mel Bay chord book. When I returned in the Fall to hand that book back and lots of questions, we jammed and he said I was at the level of someone who had been playing for years. Later, at 24 (half my life ago) I first got into the Internet and got back into computers. I learned a whole lot of things about networking, Windows, UNIX, Linux, and several programming languages all at once, and started working for an ISP within a couple of years. A few years later, I had a similar 'sudden ability' with electronics, and started building stompboxes, programming microcontrollers, and later building both solid-state and tube amps.

What I did isn't so important as what happened when it happened: In each case above, it was this euphoric, accelerated learning cycle where I effortlessly absorbed information and knowledge like a sponge, and was able to systematically and confidently apply it in a useful way. I feel like this is the key to learning: motivation and/or desire. Probably self-confidence, too. I'm sure everyone experiences this as well.

Lately (over the last few years), everything seems very 'meh'. I haven't learned anything new in awhile because I just don't care. Yet, I feel like I'm just as intelligent as I was at 24, maybe even more so. But I just can't get excited about anything anymore.

Is that lack of excitement how we get old, mentally? Have any of you felt this way, and found a way out of it? I've met people of all ages who have demonstrated that accelerated learning I've mentioned above, and in each case they seemed excited about what they were into.

How do you stay excited and interested in new things?
 

sammy1974

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Age, yes. A bit of been there done that blended with some I don't give a rat's ass. 48's a bit early though.

I've started to purposefully look for things that I'm -very- passionate about to counter that occasionally. Those moments / days are awesome.

Go to the gym more, and get your t count checked.
 

cometazzi

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Age, yes. A bit of been there done that blended with some I don't give a rat's ass. 48's a bit early though.

I've started to purposefully look for things that I'm -very- passionate about to counter that occasionally. Those moments / days are awesome.

Go to the gym more, and get your t count checked.

You joined TDPRI on my 43rd birthday.


You're also not the first person to tell me to check for Low T.
 

cometazzi

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Good question.
More guitars. But
Seriously hard at times. Started doing more cooking. Goes in phases
I've probably got too many guitars.

Also, all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. I used to enjoy cooking. Now it's a 'chore' and I just make something cheap and easy to get it done and over with.
 

guitarsophist

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effortlessly absorbed information and knowledge like a sponge
I'm going to pull the above out of your post and say that most worthwhile learning isn't usually like that. Real learning is work, especially when you are older. I'm recently retired from teaching and I'm 70. I'm still learning, but it requires work. You are lucky that things came easily to you when you were younger. Young minds are fast and confident. Older minds are slower and less confident, but have the advantage of experience.

Because real learning is work, it requires motivation and purpose. When we are young, the purposes are more immediate. For guitar players, it is often to impress girls, be cool, get gigs, make money. Maybe self-expression and some kind of artistic/aesthetic goal is vaguely imagined. When you are older, purposes become more vague, more complicated. It is a bit harder to find motivation because you are not quite sure really why you are doing stuff. But that's all on you. What brings you joy? What are you really trying to do? If you know that, and some kind of learning is essential to get there, that is your motivation to learn.
 

CX Hunter

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Don't know the physics of it all, but it does seem to be normal in the course of things, on getting older, we become less intensely curious, less invested the latest blah blah blah, needing less intense stimulation. Part no doubt is as we mature, we better know what we like, what makes us happy. Part is over time
we learn to recognize patterns that repeat see a lot of "new" things are just rehashed stuff that we've turned our backs on in the past. Things that keep me engaged are putting myself in social situations, ie: going to hear live music, travel to foreign countries, trying new cuisines. Reading new authors, writing about things I've never encountered before, is really helpful for me. New technology is generally not that interesting to me, because everything is changing so fast, that as soon I begin to master something, it becomes obsolete, and for the most part, new, improved technologies only offer the slimmest improvements over the old ones.

Re: the previous post: I don't see myself recording new albums or going on tour etc. Mostly I play for the pleasure of playing. The joy of the process of creating something new, and the pleasure of recreating the sounds that made me happy as a kid. I get to play at small local gatherings and get asked to play at informal party/dinners and love doing it for friends, who appreciate my music for what it is, which is great and doesn't involve going to a club where there's all that pressure to impress and charm a room full of strangers.
 
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guitarsophist

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we learn to recognize patterns that repeat see a lot of "new" things are just rehashed stuff that we've turned our backs on in the past.
I agree with this. Sometimes before I retired I would look at a situation and see that I had fought this battle already and lost, and then fought it again and won, and here it is coming back again, same thing a third or fourth time. Should I fight it again? Nah. It's just the cycle of human nonsense. Better things to do.
 

RetiredUnit1

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Planet Earth: No One Escapes Alive.
Age, it's not an IF it's a WHEN.
Programmer as well, been the IT director, been the consultant charging $175 an hour. When I woke up on my 65th birthday I said to myself "You have to be EFFING KIDDING ME" Felt like I was 55 when I went to sleep, felt 75 when I got up and it hasn't gone away. 66 now, and not loving it.

It's not that I can't conceive of the complex three, four, five dimensional data structures, it's how long it takes. Everything works just as well, and way too slow.
 

Tenderfoot

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[To summarize] The older I got; I realized that with less years left (than lived) I had to place priorities on what I wanted to do. What time I have left I want to spend on things that I like and have the confidence and ability to do and be good at it. My interest in learning is still alive and well; but I have to be practical as to what IS and what is NOT doable.
 

stxrus

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I’m 70 and I don’t get excited about much anymore. I blame it on the forced lock down and some disappointment in the supply chain fiasco.
I don’t play guitar as much as I’d like to. I put off a bunch of things that aren’t that important. My memory sometimes fails me and sometimes I surprise my self with what I remember.
I don’t feel like I’m depressed as much as I’m apathetic about a lot of stuff. The dark and
I really need something to kick me in the butt and get my juices running again. IF there was a place to get out and jam that just may do it. Unfortunately there isn’t and I don’t see anything on the horizon.
 

FuzzWatt

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Excitement is highly over-rated and peacefulness is under-appreciated.

It's about the flow, for the past 10-15 years have been into intuition/flow, i.e., being without effort...the right time at the right place and things just happen. Kind of a Yoda thing.

Contentment! That's very true. Happiness is ephemeral. Contentment is more difficult to achieve, but more stable, present, and long term.
 

Kandinskyesque

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This guy is worth a look.
https://www.daniellevitin.com/
I've read/listened to a few of his books where he talks about music and the brain. An interesting guy and friend of Stewart Copeland who started out as a sound engineer then became a neuroscientist.
I'm currently working my way through "The Changing Mind: A Neuroscientist's Guide to Aging Well".

I started to see a very experienced Neuro-Psychologist twice a month about 5 years ago. As is usually the case it was because some stuff had gone wrong: a very late ASD diagnosis and some later in life problems related to my brain injury, however, the real bonus has been learning what's good for me in general and a lot of self knowledge.

I was 50 when I started and an interesting thing he told me about the 50-60 decade (a few years either side) is that our motivations begin to shift towards legacy, as opposed to achievement.
That struck a chord with me because months earlier my closest friend since childhood, a very high achiever (he became a top architect in Vancouver) had died just two months short of his 50th birthday, and what I had been doing for a long time was comparing myself (with a life beset with problems and addiction) with his but here was me still breathing.

I'd recommend using the latter years of your 40s to first examine your values, then set some goals for the decade ahead. I got into recovery in the 2nd half of my 40s so the first part of that was a given for me.

However, the second part, the goal setting, has been a lifesaver for me; I've had some serious trials with health, family and legal issues.
The goals I set (of which I justify to no-one) have been what has kept me going. Maybe I'm just a default optimist, but I'd guess your current ennui is not permanent and merely the first part of beginning to know yourself.

Learning about oneself as almost an observer is a pretty interesting endeavour.
You might not want to go as far as I did at 48: I got "know thyself" tattooed on my arm as per the entranceway to the temple of Apollo at Delphi.

1660539944727.png
 

Telekarster

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Don't discount that the last couple of years have been very difficult for most of us, the world over, that could be a contributing factor subconsciously if nothing else. Couple this with the fact that you (and the rest of us) are getting older, simply adds to it all. As others have already said, you should keep an eye on your T levels from this point forward, if you're not already doing so. Try to find hobbies. For me it was building my 51 Nocaster that really kicked it in gear for me, and I've built several guitars since then, and that was 4 years ago. Never did anything like it before but this forum motivated me to try it, and today she's my #1 guitar :)

You'll likely also start prioritizing your life, and begin to start thinking more and more on what's most important to you vs. "ruling the world" like your younger self was probably striving for. It's like the old saying "With age comes wisdom"... if you see what I mean. Chin up man! You'll settle into it all in your own way. It will be aok ;)
 




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