Posts Tagged ‘WSJ’

  • Take Back the Glory of “Senior”

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    Every time I use the word “senior” to describe our generation, people flinch or cringe. “How did this happen?” I asked a colleague last week.  When we were seniors in high school we felt like kings and queens of the mountain. A senior in college was even better. We were the class imbued with all the wisdom those hallowed halls could offer before stepping into the “real aka business world.” Once installed in the business world, we could not wait to achieve senior status: be it Senior Editor, Senior Manager, Senior Partner – Senior whatever. Senior was the epitome of excellence and achievement. Then, when we hit age 50, to be called a senior was a kiss of death. You were now over-the-hill, redundant or worst of all invisible.

    Seniors tried to counter the negative stereotype with adjectives such as “Older Adult.” Talk about redundant; it’s like saying a child is a little toddler. Then, people seized on the word Boomer as a less vapid alternative to Older Adult. Talk about pathetic. Boomer sounds more like a slightly deranged character in the 1994 American epic movie, Forrest Gump, than a revered and respected senior citizen.

    I remember being struck by a comment the late Betty Freidan made to an audience of hundreds at an NBA (National Booksellers Association) meeting. She said, “All of the prejudice I have encountered in Feminism pales – absolutely pales – in comparison to what I have experienced in Ageism.” That was back in the early 1990’s, and we certainly have not made much progress in the ensuing 20+ years.

    Let’s look at a little aging reality here. Superman’s first appearance was in Action Comics #1, in 1938. Wonder Woman was introduced  in All Star Comics #8 in 1941.  No spring chickens, these two are still super acting 74 and 71 respective years later.

    I know these riveting details, because I read the recent Wall Street Journal article,  A Haven for Aged Super Heroes. The article was about Metropolis Collectibles Inc., a firm in New York City, which buys and sells vintage comics. Especially noteworthy, is the fact that Metropolis recently sold the aforementioned 1938 Action Comics #1, which debuted Superman, for $2.2 million. Talk about the value of an “Aging Superhero!”

    A month after reading the “Aging Super Heroes” WSJ piece, the New York Times published History Hits the Campaign Trail. Their article describes how, in this miasma (my word) of political campaigning, Obama and Romney continue to “invoke the opinions of long-dead white males in powdered wigs.” The article notes, “While it’s been a long time since any of the founding fathers made a personal appearance on the campaign trail, they continue speaking from beyond the grave through the mouths of present-day candidates, weighing in on matters as disparate — and perhaps unimaginable to them in life — as health care reform, gay marriage and abortion rights.” It seems highly ironic in these times of rampant ageism, that politicians fighting for their political lives need the wisdom of these aged statesmen to validate their positions.

    Last but far from least on the ludicrousness of ageism, I call your attention to a dazzling matter of “Advanced (as in age) Style.” We highlighted this book a few weeks ago, but I’ve just learned of a video – in which you can hear each of these fabulous fashionistas, Grande Dames [in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 100’s] describe how they feel the secret of life has nothing to do with age. It is, rather, all about the art of being oneself forever!

    I’m off to buy a new hat…

  • “Science is reshaping what we know about getting older. (The news is better than you think.)”

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    Illustration by Sarah Cline for Newsweek

    Jim Emerman, Executive Vice President, Civic Ventures, highlighted this fascinating Newsweek article, This Is Your Brain: Aging, on his recent web posting.

    I found these first words – “Science is reshaping what we know about getting older. (The news is better than you think.)” by Sharon Begley, science writer for Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal, very encouraging. The rest of her article, I might add, is just as upbeat. That being said, I was predisposed to like it because I am a visual learner and I love the article’s accompanying art, which pictures six interconnected cog wheels chugging away in a spiffy looking brain.

    Begley points out how researcher, Timothy Salthouse, Director of the Salthouse Cognitive Aging Lab at the University of Virginia, was troubled by a paradox he identified in a graph he had created:

    “The graph shows two roller-coastering lines. One represents the proportion of people of each age who are in the top 25 percent on a standard lab test of reasoning ability—thinking. The other shows the proportion of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies of each age. Reasoning ability peaks at about age 28 and then plummets, tracing that well-known plunge that makes those older than 30 (OK, fine, 40) cringe: only 6 percent of top scorers are in their 50s, and only 4 percent are in their 60s. But the age distribution of CEOs is an almost perfect mirror image: it peaks just before age 60. About half are older than 55. And the number under 40 is about zero.”

    His deductions are: “First, in real life, rather than in psych labs, people rely on mental abilities that stand up very well to age and discover work-arounds for the mental skills that do fade. The second is that some mental abilities actually improve with age, and one of them may be the inchoate thing called wisdom, which is not a bad thing to have when running a company.”

    Begley says such insights: “are producing a dramatic, and hopeful, rethinking of what happens to the mind and brain as we age. Some of the earlier bad-news findings are being questioned as scientists discover that the differences between today’s 20-year-old brains and 80-year-old brains reflect something other than simple age, and instead have to do with how people live their lives. And a deeper understanding of normal cognitive aging is producing interventions that, because they target the cell-level brain changes that accompany aging, promise to be more effective than memory exercises and crossword puzzles.”

    Read the article in its entirety to learn more about recent brain research and about some of the successful “interventions” available to foster healthy aging. Begley includes free ones such as walking which is just as valuable for your brain as it is for your heart, lungs and waist line, and others, which she notes contain little or no value other than the revenues they will generate for those folks rushing in to take advantage of the anti-aging intervention market.

    Estrid Geersten, tandem parachute jumping at age 100. Courtesy, Guinness World Records

    Speaking of paradoxes, the article also contains a subset – a slide show by Tara Lewis of “Super Seniors,” achievers doing everything from skydiving to climbing Mt Everest.

    The paradox for me is that, other than Nola Ochs who graduated from college at age 95, are these “Super Seniors” really optimizing their cognitive reasoning skills in these wild escapades???

    Nola Ochs, Courtesy Charlie Riedel, AP


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