If you’re between the ages of 40 and 68 – what researchers define as middle age – you’re probably worried about gaining weight and losing your hair. Fortunately, the one thing you don’t have to worry about losing is your mind. Barbara Strauch is the author of The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain. She says that while there are some glitches in the brain, like not being able to remember people’s names, or where you put your glasses, the brain is actually at its peak in middle age. It stays there longer than we knew. Here’s what science has discovered about your aging brain.
- First, as you get older, you get smarter. Studies show that middle aged people are better than those in their 20s at memorizing word lists, understanding arguments, making character judgments, and juggling finances. You can also solve problems faster because your brain has built up interwoven layers of knowledge.
- The next thing that happens to your brain when you age: You’re happier. People who are going through a midlife crisis now tended to have some sort of crisis at just about every age, which means that middle age isn’t any different. Meanwhile, the rest of us are more content, because our brains finally have enough sense to know it’s better to look for solutions, instead of dwelling on problems. Researchers found that women become more confident, assertive, and responsible in middle age. A 22-year study at Fordham University found that life satisfaction peaked for men at age 65, regardless of health, marital, or financial status.
- Finally, you can prevent the loss of brain cells, and generate new ones. Scientists used to think that we lost 30 percent of our neurons as we got older. Now research shows that we keep most of our brain cells as long as we live, especially if we exercise. If we exercise our brains by learning new skills, we can improve the connections between our brain cells, and keep our brains functioning better, longer.