Discover more from Stephen's People
Meet a charming and grumpy 92 year old burlesque queen
(No. 49) Hippocampus health and a shape-shifting interview, by Stephen P. Williams
But first, this: Volunteer with your dog to help researchers figure out the canine aging process. You’ll learn a lot during your ten year participation.
Exercise Your Brain
Photo by madison lavern on Unsplash
I swam at the pool today --- reserve a lane, fill out an online COVID-19 day pass, wear a mask to take a shower -- and, as always, I felt energized and clear headed when I finished. Plus, during my swim I figured out how to manage a project that I’m finding difficult and spent a few laps making a gratitude list. So I am on board with a trove of research that says that exercise is good for aging brains.
(Do you exercise? I have no idea what percentage of my readers do, which is part of the reason I’m going to send a survey to subscribers in the next few weeks. If you don’t mind.)
Here are a few ways exercise might help our brains:
The hippocampus is the core of human memory and essential to good thinking. Walking, running, dancing, weight lifting -- most exercises -- boost the number of neurons in the hippocampus.
As we age, areas of our brain shrink. Movement seems to inhibit this loss.
A University of Arizona study of runners and sedentary people found that the runners’ brains light up in several areas when they are processing thoughts, while this is much less pronounced in sedentary people. The researchers suspect running improves communication between areas within the brain, aiding intelligence.
I’ve known many people over the years who resist exercising. They don’t enjoy the mental aspects -- it’s boring, or their minds race, or they feel inadequate. Or their joints hurt or they feel too fat or they’re afraid their bodies are just too weak. Curiously, regular exercise can help a person with each of these conditions. So take a walk, swim, go for a bike ride, or hike the Pacific Coast Trail. Just have fun, if you can, and soon you’ll notice your brain and body getting better.
The Interview: Benjamin Dyett
This guy’s wife calls him the oldest sixteen year old on the planet. And that’s a compliment. Meet Benjamin Dyett, who just turned 60 and has some thoughts about our attitudes.
For curious people
Umm, I have mixed feelings about virtual reality headsets for seniors. Sure, great that an old guy can go fly fishing in Montana, from the comfort of his Boise Barcalounger. And wonderful that an older woman can take a walk through midtown Manhattan from her back porch in Trenton. But there are some drawbacks. First, aesthetics. MYND VR must have paid an ad agency top dollar to come up with the logo that dominates the exterior panel of their VR headsets. But do we really want to navigate rooms full of olds wearing headsets like the one below? On a more practical level, wouldn’t these things be dangerous as hell for olds who might already have balance issues? Decide for yourself.
A friend took me out for my belated birthday dinner (63) the other night, at a fancy Park Avenue restaurant. She’d made the reservation for a table inside, which surprised me because I was only vaguely aware that indoor dining, at 25% occupancy, was allowed now in NYC. Aside from the dubious pleasure of eating in a place where the music blasted and the waiter hovered and the food was expensive, just like the old days, I wondered about the viral risks of indoor dining. The CDC answered my question with this suggestion: We should all continue to avoid non-essential indoor spaces. That means restaurants. This won’t last forever.
How to be in love
The New Yorker offers a wonderful 17 minute film about the romance between a 92-year-old burlesque dancer and her Prince Charming.
My other life
In my other life, I take road trips to talk to forgotten Americans about their lives during the pandemic. I’d love it if you’d check out my stories, called Postcards from Pandemic, at these local social media links:
Please feel free to send me a note with your thoughts.