This column is the first in a new series from Andrea Gilats, LearningLife director
I've just finished reading two popular books by psychiatrist and gerontologist Gene Cohen: The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life and The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain.
A pioneer in the field of positive aging, Dr. Cohen believes (and he's got some pretty serious science behind him) that both our brains and minds actually work better as we age. Those pesky short-term memory losses aside, our boomer brains are firing on all cylinders, and if we can remain relatively disease-free, we can expect new sparks until very late in life.
In addition, because our inner reservoirs of experience and knowledge (and their by-product, wisdom) have grown so rich, we're also enjoying increased ability to think in more complex and creative ways, greater capacity for resilience under emotional stress, and heightened social and humanitarian instincts.
Cohen brings brain and mind together in the Inner Push, his theory about human development in midlife and beyond. The Inner Push is "a life force composed of many individual forces," and includes these human imperatives:
• To finally get to know oneself and be comfortable with oneself.
• To learn how to live well.
• To have good judgment.
• To feel whole - psychologically, interpersonally, spiritually - despite loss and pain.
• To live life to the fullest right to the end.
• To give to others, one's family and community.
• To tell one's story.
• To continue the process of discovery and change.
• To remain hopeful despite adversity.
I love the way these goals allow us to see so clearly how much we have in common, yet leave us completely free to celebrate and pursue our individuality. I love, too, the way the journey and destination become one when the Inner Push is upon us. After all, today isn't a penance we pay in order to have a better tomorrow; it's the harvest we reap by virtue of sowing a better tomorrow.
Even though I left my reading glasses at a restaurant last week, forgot to turn the coffee pot off when I left for work the other day, and spent several seconds this afternoon trying to think of the word zucchini (couldn't get past "big cucumber"), I'm not embarrassed to say that my brain is in bloom! May yours flower, too.