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

Harry Styron

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There are many types of cognitive decline and I've witnessed more than a few of them up close. The unfortunate truth is that doing the NYT crossword or learning an instrument aren't provably going to stave off Alzheimer's* or any other kind of dementia. Latest suggested links (to add to a very long list) are gut disorders and certain viruses.

We are in a golden age of computational chemistry/biology, and the ability uncover therapeutics/causes. I'm optimistic that we'll find a real treatment for Alzheimer's within my lifetime, maybe even Lewy body, but I play guitar because I love it. If you'd rather watch re-runs, watch 'em.

*There is a mountain of evidence that suggests music is one of the last things to leave an Alzheimer's patient's brain however.


Last Tuesday night on the spur of the moment, my wife and I attended an open mic at a restaurant-bar on Branson Landing, which is a tourist place about six blocks from our house. Only a couple of other musicians showed up, so we had plenty of time to perform. I accompanied my wife as she sang a variety of songs made famous by Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Adele, as well as "Hopelessly Devoted to You," which she sang twice at the request of members of the audience. The audience was wildly enthusiastic in their applause. The bar manager offered us meals, drinks and a paying gig. The guy running the open mic posted an excerpt on Facebook of her singing Hopelessly Devoted.

The next day my wife had only a vague memory of having performed. We ran into a friend Saturday evening who complimented her, having seen the Facebook video of her singing. My wife said that she had no idea what the friend was referring to. This is what the profound memory loss of Alzheimer's can be like. Her consciousness restarts every five minutes.

My wife has taken care of herself physically and mentally all her life. She ate healthy foods, exercised, was socially engaged, well-educated, read a lot of history books, was a teacher and freelance journalist and editor, and played music. She has and had no vices. The happy talk about prevention of Alzheimer's is primarily generalized speculation based on the general health benefits of healthy living.
 
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buster poser

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The happy talk about prevention of Alzheimer's is primarily generalized speculation based on the general health benefits of healthy living.
Yeah exactly (and that is a lovely memory, I wish you and your wife the best).

I've had three grandparents suffer from some form of dementia; two Alz., one mixed (likely vascular/Lewy body). Another functional grandparent, my great-aunt had Parkinson's-related cognitive impairment my whole life.

About all there was family speculation about what was to blame. About one, they'd say "well she didn't have a big intellectual life, just raised four boys and did the same thing every day." Somehow they couldn't square it with another who was a voracious reader and did the NYT crossword daily.

It's terrifying that we can't pinpoint it, but that's where we are. No sense trying to triangulate against it, but clean livin' is always a good prescription (even if I don't always take it).
 

guitarsophist

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I woke up not dead yet. Then I realized it was Monday, I gotta go mow the lawn, and edge it.
Yeah, but you spend a lot of time posting odd philosophical questions about utterly ordinary things making everybody think about daily reality from a sideways glance. This practice staves off the doldrums, for you and for other TDPRIers.

Best get rid of the lawn though. Uses a lot of water, especially in Bakersfield.
 

Toto'sDad

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Yeah, but you spend a lot of time posting odd philosophical questions about utterly ordinary things making everybody think about daily reality from a sideways glance. This practice staves off the doldrums, for you and for other TDPRIers.

Best get rid of the lawn though. Uses a lot of water, especially in Bakersfield.
Thank you for your kind words. I'm really looking forward to getting back into golf, it's just been too hot for that this year.

I would probably be fine with a dirt yard which were quite popular in a small town I lived in when I was a little kid about forty miles north of here. Momma however possesses the gift of gardening to such an extent she can plant a broken bat and cause a maple tree to sprout out of the ground. We're old, and I figure if that's what she likes, that's what she gets. She was up giving me directions on just how to do things bright and early this morning! ;)
 

StoneH

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I sure am glad I'm not old . . . Gotta run, there's a new episode of "Baywatch" on.

Note: I know Alzheimer's.

My grandmother was institutionalized for 10 years . . . severe.
My Mom lived with me from 87 to 90 . . . mild.
My FIL is 92 and we are trying to keep him at home . . . moderate.
 

buster poser

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burntfrijoles

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I've lost my 'mojo'...... that fire of youth, the drive of one's life, the push that makes things happen.

Lately (over the last few years), everything seems very 'meh'. ..... I just can't get excited about anything anymore.
I don't think what you are experiencing is anything that most of us go through. At some point we lose some of our drive, ambition and intellectual curiosity. Sure, there are outliers who keep grinding, looking for the next thing to conquer etc but that's just the flip side of the coin.
At the height of my career I was a builder, turnaround artist, change agent and all that happy horse crap. At some point I didn't want to move up or find any other hill to climb. I switched gears to being someone who could put my creativity to work rather than slay another dragon. It was more low key but more satisfying. After a while that got stale too.
So..... I found other things to fill up my life. Some of it was filled by the arrival of my granddaughters. Much of it was just accepting things as they are and being at peace with it.
You haven't lost your intelligence, mental acumen/agility. Hopefully you will discover something else.
 

billy logan

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God bless the Brandi Carlile's of this world (for helping Joni Mitchell) - the Lady Gaga's (for helping Tony Bennett) - and a fellow at the top this page helping his wife.

OP- Cometazzi. You were given my share of intelligence! Plz go into the Crispr genetics field, or the biome of whatever, and its relationship to some other thing I don't understand!
 
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kuch

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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?
the ommm minute

maybe it's time to look deeper inside....

every morning when my wife leaves for work i tell her "do what the buddha says, pay attention". It's my way of saying, live in the moment. "experience" every thing you do, don't just do it.

live in the present, not the past
 

telleutelleme

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JMO

You only get a limited number of days on Earth. Spend them wisely. Challenge yourself every day. As you age you decline in your ability to do certain things.

I use my brother as my benchmark. He just turned 86. He was a professional motorcycle racer in the 50's and 60's. When he could not compete at the level he expected, he switched to running marathons, then triathlons doing the Hawaii Iron man multiple times. When he could no longer do that he switched to long distance swimming for exercise. He finally stopped that in his late 70's. Now he travels all over the world on cruises, walks the decks morning and evening, takes the exercise classes and mostly walks when visiting onshore. At home he takes care of 5 acres having done all the landscaping with just his wife and himself.

I have been blessed with a great life so far, lots of challenges, forks in the road I had to choose and all were essential living experiences. Some have been really crappy and some have been absolutely mind blowing great. I hope to have some more. I am chairman of an education foundation. I am still working part time challenging myself talking with young exceptionally smart people. I feel like walking isn't enough exercise and I am out of shape so, at 74, I just signed up for a Brazilian Jujitsu class. Can't wait to see how that goes.:rolleyes:

I forget names, have to write down telephone numbers, use Google a whole lot more these days, but that is just part of getting older. You just have to push on and enjoy life at the level you physically and mentally can. Just don't cut yourself short because the number of days you have are limited.
 

BlueTele

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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?
Well...first of all...you're talking about one thing my friend: "TESTOSTERONE". It drives all male interest, motivation, action, and the quality and pleasure thereof. After age 30-35 we are on a downhill slide that can't be stopped. "BTW"...I was in health care for forty (40) years...don't ever take testosterone supplements or voodoo supplements to supposedly boost your testosterone. Most do nothing, but most cause cancer. A second thing specific to music and musical motivation that can leave any of us feeling - per your quote: "meh", is the fact that a lot of us grew up at a time when Rock 'n Roll and electrified Chicago Blues was starting and peaking. It was all new, exciting, and gave us great motivation to become the guitar players that we are now. But...by the late '80's and early '90's, the African American musicians who gave us the great Chicago Blues and Rhythm and Blues of the '50's, '60's, and '70's, died off, and we were going to have to adapt to what was called "Rap", which of course had no "band of musicians"...just a drum and rhythm machine putting out the "thump" beat. No melody, no verse or chorus, just "rhythmic speaking"..."Rap."

So I really noticed that I was starting to feel starved for motivation...something new to learn. Like a lot of guys, I taught myself guitar and I play by ear. Other than reading chord charts, I learned by listening to records and figuring them out by ear. I am blessed with perfect pitch having come from a family of classical musicians. I did play a classic instrument and read music, but not guitar music. AND...

I really miss vinyl records. As early as the 1970's and 1980's with 8-Track and cassette tapes, followed by CD's, we lost the opportunity to sit at the record player and lift that stylus needle over and over to listen to that one part of song until we "got it." I struggled trying to "rewind" my cassette tapes over and over, and of course, you just can't do that with a CD. So not only did I lose my musical inspiration by not hearing decent music, but I also lost the ability to learn and teach myself.

I have essentially stopped growing as a musician now that I am in my '60's. Every time I buy a new piece of gear, I figuratively "kick myself" because I had been thinking that is finally time to sell off my entire small collection of guitars and amps, and to keep "just one" of each. I never move forward with that because I have valid reasons for having and wanting to keep my different guitars: solid body, semi-hollow, single coil Teles, or P-90-equipped guitars, etc. But it is the stagnation...the loss of motivated pursuit of learning cool new music, because I personally do not feel there is any...and not have I tried to find it.

Once in a while, someone...solo artist or band really surprises me with something new, but that is a "1% event" as opposed to the 99% of a wasteland of lousy music. Other than Gary Clark and Eric Gale, there are no African American Blues artists keeping it alive, and I am SO TIRED of hearing white guys like me "try" to sing the Blues. Another "BTW"...I believe Blues is all about the "voice". Yes, Clapton, Beck, Page, and others brought "British white guy" versions of the Blues with heavy emphasis on "guitars" and soloing, but what I always loved about the Blues, was the soul of the voice. Think about the Blues greats who played guitar. It was FAR LESS about playing the guitar, than it was singing it with their voices: Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Muddy waters, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, R.L. Burnside, etc. Their voices made me fall in love with the Blues. The Clapton, Beck, Page era was exciting because they played Blues faster with with incredible guitar licks, but none of them could really sing. There was only "one" white guy, that I ever thought could really sing the Blues, and that was Gregg Allman. John Mayall...bless his soul for keeping it alive...never really impressed me as a singer...it was all about the guitar players rolling through the Bluesbreakers, and we all know who they were. Ach...sorry for the thesis. It is a symptom of my own feelings of "meh"...nothing motivated me anymore, as well. So...it is "biological" with ever-declining Testosterone levels in men over 35 years old, and it is the wasteland of modern music where there is just no one motivating "me" to emulate what they are doing like in passed decades. Hang in there...that's all we can do.
 
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rand z

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Decline?

If you're only in your 40's, please take note:

..............................................................


I'm 6 months from 70 and I don't feel much different than when I was 50.

My lifestyle revolves around my diet!

I eat way differently than most people and I've been doing it for most of my adult life (50+ years).

I consume very little meat and eat mostly vegetables, some fruit and lots of whole grains.

I haven't eaten white bread (except in emergency) since I was a youngster.

Even then I regularly ate Roman Meal bread.

I've been eating brown rice (no white) since I was a teenager.

And, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta and and assortment of other grains, too.

Beans/legumes are a major component of my diet.

KALE is my miracle drug and I eat a lot of it... mostly raw.

Also: NUTRITIONAL YEAST.

Filtered water; organic everything including vegetable juice and apple cider vinegar.

Oils: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, only.

Fish: Mostly, Tuna and Salmon (occasionally shellfish; but very limited amount).

Sweets: no donuts/cookies or cakes etc.; once a month a little ice cream; no candy or soda (yuk).

A teaspoon of honey in my coffee/tea for 50 years instead of sugar (I dont care for really sweet stuff).

I keep moving as much as possible.

Canoeing, kayaking, camping, bicycling and hiking are in the plan.

I lift light weights everyday and bend and stretch, too.

FRESH AIR is always a concern (windows cracked even in winter).

500 mg of vitamin C, and a good multiple vitamin, every day.

I like beer and an occasional cigar.

I try to be positive and happy and dearly love my gal and friends.

I play guitar everyday, write songs, sing and perform in front of peeps as much as I can.

I'm 6' and weigh 175 for the last 35 years.

I've been to the Dr. 4 times in the last 40 years.

I've been fortunate; but I still work hard everyday to live/stay healthy.

I hope it continues...

Try it... and Good Luck!!

imo.
 
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telepraise

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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?
Ahhh, what I would give to be 48 again. What I hear in your post is about your advanced ability to tackle new things and the spark that you received from achieving them. It seems like all your achievements center around you. Nothing wrong with that, but it's understandable that eventually facing one more mountain to climb will lose its appeal. I've built a house full of (literally) cabinets and furniture and built multiple guitars, it was like an obsession for me. I have come to the realization that I'm not interested in doing that anymore. Your needs change as you age.

One possibility that another poster suggested is service work. If you've never volunteered before, it can be a whole different kind of heart satisfaction. I fell into it by chance when my girls were teens and the youth group was doing a mission trip. They needed another leader so I went and got hooked. The next six summers I did the same thing even after my girls had gone on to college. When you take the time to serve others who are really hurting it makes you realize just how blessed most of us are. With all the devastating disasters we've seen in the last month, I'm sure the Red Cross would love to have you handing blankets and food to people who have just lost all their worldly possessions.

Best of luck to you in rekindling passion in your life- TP
 




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