|low graphics version | feedback | help|
|You are in: Talking Point|
Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 11:09 GMT
Is it all downhill after 40?
Psychologists found that people start to slow down mentally in their mid-forties.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
The study shows that thinking-speed declines at 45 at a constant rate into old age.
At the same time, experts say older people can rely on their greater experience to compensate for the slowdown in their mental functioning.
Do you feel up to speed? And if not, is greater experience enough to compensate?
I first retired when I was 50 in 1976. Since then I have had nine other careers and am still working part-time at three more.
I admit I am not doing it solely for money, but to work with people in general. At 75 I am still very active (touch wood) and put it down to being blessed with good health. I used to smoke a packet of cigarettes a day and three or four pints a day. I still enjoy the odd pint and although at times I could murder a cigarette, fortunately quit the habit three years ago. Is life boring? No way - there aren't enough hours in the day for me. At my age, every day is a bonus. Live life to the full, why worry, let your bank manager do that.
While it is only fair to give psychologists their due there are many exceptions. I am in my late 50s, and until recently (have taken early retirement to be able to spend more time on my personal life) held down a very responsible job, doing many tasks under constant stress and working overtime on most days. Despite this I was very seldom sick, (during 25 years perhaps 4 days off for sickness) and often the young people used to come to me to ask my secret for coping with such responsibilities without having health problems. I do believe the secret lies in strength of character and ability to work hard, and of course to enjoy the work you do and above all, not to be afraid of human contact and solving the day to day problems which do arise in our lives today.
In response to Jan Lewis about the employers not looking at the 40+ crowd. These corporate types don't want the competition. Many of them are so insecure with themselves, they need that zombie blank stare to reassure them that they are the supreme being in their respective workplaces. Drive on 40+ people we are here to stay. I am 45 and work in the telecommunication field, honour graduate at 37 in an electronics technology degree course. If you keep learning new things you are building your mind.
Thinking probably does slow down as we get older.
What's important is not the speed of thought but the quality of process that supports it.
I'm 55 and can't run up stairs as fast as I used to. It is likely I think slower too. This doesn't bother me and I see no reason why it should bother those people on the verge of becoming "older".
The champion at my bridge club has poor eyesight, walks with a stick and is in her middle eighties.
Her thought processes, however, are razor sharp. Who cares if they take 55 seconds instead of 35?
Does slow thinking automatically mean superficial?
I do not think so. There is more to thinking than speed. Experience, wisdom, will, stability, vision are the qualities which does not necessarily depend on age. Is it better to come up with a quick decision or with a wise one? There is too much emphasis these days on intelligence, but it is obvious that intelligence alone, without love, selflessness and purpose is not enough to have a happy life or build a better world.
I am now 61 and have recently bought a computer and joined a class for older learners. I have also agreed to edit our village newsletter for which I need to be able to do the design and layout. A few years ago I passed my English Literature 'A' level and passed my entry to Mensa test. Now that we have both retired we have also taken up serious walking to keep fit. Too old? Rubbish.
This 70 year old man is well and truly alive and glad of it. In the Australian phrase "I wouldn't be dead for quids." As a writer the total of my experience outweighs the slowing down of my short-term memory.
I am fifty-five and going downhill fast, but it is still one hell of a ride
It reminds me of the old joke about the reactions of a young brash bison and his older and wiser companion when they come across a herd of female bison. "Let's run down and grab us a female" shouts the youth. "Let's wander down slowly and grab the lot" replies the veteran.
John C., Warwick, England
I'm looking at the issue in a different light. Perhaps this "mental slowing down" is one of the blessings of ageing. Consciousness gradually, gently disentangling itself from a human body-form might hold opportunities for experiencing one's aliveness as intimately and vibrantly as during childhood. Who knows - when the intellect stops spinning 'round and 'round so fast, maybe other kinds of equally valid experience of beingness is finally free to flourish?
No, this happens at any age depending on an individual and the Insurance Actuaries have proved lately their forecasts are incorrect. This is a new age, people are living longer, have had exceedingly more active lives with lots more interests than before, especially females who have been 'allowed' to almost equalise?
In 3 weeks time I will be 47.
I agree with the comments that you have more to remember, that's why retrieval of information takes so long.
My two teenage daughters don't think I'm past it, otherwise they wouldn't ask me for help with homework.
Experience is the key, use what you know, common sense and experience can help you to learn anything knew.
Just keep your mind active, and learn something new every day.
With regard to the recent study which highlights mental slowdown in the over 45's.
I was recently awarded a 2:1 LLB after 4 years study. I am 48, and could not envisage achieving such a goal during my 20's or 30'.
Chris Thompson, UK
Stereotypes created by TV, the newspapers and our political parties are demeaning, disrespectful and completely bogus. Collectivising "the poor", "the young", "the elderly", "ethnic minorities" is meaningless. Worthwhile judgements about people cannot be based on age, sex, colour, religion or any other criterion. Physical and mental ability can only be determined one at a time on an individual basis.
I noticed a reduction in certain types of mental acrobatics from the age of 20 to 25 (mostly in mathematics), but while the flexible learning and ability nature to process multiple things at one time has reduced somewhat, the ability to draw on and use the existing knowledge base has increased more than what was lost. Overall the 20 year-old me would be no match for myself
today at 42. We'll see what it's like at 50.
I am soon to turn 33 and look forward to future motherhood strengthening the already strong bond between myself and my parents. There could not be two people I admire more in the world. My father started learning technical and legal German (from scratch) at 45 and my mother starting learning to play the organ at age 55. I managed to catch them today between their trips abroad and consider myself lucky to do so! I can only wish for such a sharp brain and active life as they are now leading in their mid-sixties.
Ummmhhh - How old was Einstein when he received the Nobel Prize? Forty two!
In reply to Robert Kent. Having turned 50 this year I can honestly say I am just as alert as ever and ready to learn new things. Working full time, with not much time to flop in front of the television or the computer definitely helps. I would agree, however, that everyone should take another driving test, preferably every five years from whatever age they started to drive.
That would certainly keep the roads a lot clearer!
It depends on so many other factors besides just age; lifestyle and attitude surely also being major contributors to one's mental prowess. Of course, us older people also have so much more to remember ...
I believe the assumption that the older 45 year-old mind is slower has more to do
with the stress and clutter of modern day life.
With clarity, low stress and the ability to discern ideas, the older mind is better! Talk to some Buddhist Monks and compare!
My dad is now 72 and last year he went back to 'school' to learn basic computer skills. Anyone can do it if they put their minds to it, irrespective of age. He may take his time, but he gets there in the end. He is doing so well that, for Christmas, I am installing a modem in his computer. He is very keen to use the Internet. You may be hearing from him soon!
I am 45 and my firm belief is that most depends on how you use your brain. Most people are forced into a routine which allows the brain to work on override. The ageing process is one of "fighting back": Alistair Cooke and the like are examples to us all.
Fritz Schöne, New Zealand
The ageism thing again! I am 47 and I've been using computers since I was 42, and I can do a lot more with them than people half my age. Experience counts for a lot and I certainly don't feel "over the hill". When will employers wake up and realise the 40+ have a lot to offer. Yes I struggled at first when I went to evening classes but that was because I was out of the learning habit, a few classes and I was fine.
Let's have some positive stories about the over 40s and their abilities and contribution to employers and society PLEASE !!
Don't reinforce the idea that we're unemployable and heading for the margins of society - or people will believe it.
Fine - let us all retire at 40 then - suits me!
Deborah Parr, England
When I was 21 I obtained my first degree. I have recently gone back to university at age 41 and I am finding the work much more interesting and much easier to take on board then when I was in my 20's and I'm doing a brand new area of study. Personally, I believe in the adage "Use it or lose it." Use your brain, stretch it, stimulate it and it will serve you well over the years. Neglect your brain, and you will start to lose those mental powers pretty quickly.
Ability to learn decreases with age? Poppycock! The clear reason is because those of a younger age tend to be more regularly in day to day contact with that which needs to be learnt (see the comment about the dad learning the Internet). Ask those in the 18-24 age group to learn about the Second World War, for example, and see what happens then.
Pascal Jacquemain, UK (French)
Everyone here seen the film Logan's Run? I think this is just the proof we needed...
It's my 40th birthday today, so I've
been getting a lot of stick because
of this story!
I have recently moved to a new and
intellectually challenging job and I certainly
cannot handle the great volume of detail I
could as a student. My ability to solve
problems and explore new concepts
now relies on my wider experience
and interests than I had 20 years ago.
People over 45 don't slow down they just know that it is cool to take your time.
Andy Millward, UK
I don't think my marbles were ever properly sorted from day one. At 54 and working in the oilfield industry I definitely tend to forget things, so I have started writing them down. The only trouble now is locating the piece of paper I wrote it on!!! But working in Brazil, I'm bound to be partially nuts!!!
Challenging mental activity and trying out new things are the key to
staying mentally alert. I'm 48, into my 'second life' at university
after 22 years in the US Air Force. My current job is demanding, yet
totally unrelated to the structured military lifestyle I had grown accustomed
to. I now feel more liberated, less fatigued than I did 10 years ago.
My humble advice: Jettison the routine, spice up your life! Chess
Once again we see that when it comes to
ageism you can say what you like.
If this statement was made on the grounds of gender
or race it would be condemned as ignorant bigotry.
I work in the IT industry which is traditionally a good area for job opportunities, until you reach the age of 40. This seems to be the cut-off point for employers to accept your worthiness as an employee, and career prospects dry up.
I am obviously being unjust in labelling these firms ageist and narrow-minded, as they appear to be a very enlightened bunch.
How wrong can you be?
When my sock drawer is nearly empty, I can retrieve a pair of socks quickly (young, brain). When it's full, I spend longer locating the perfect pair (older, "learned" brain).
I'm just about to turn 26 and have recently been lamenting the way my mind seems to have become 'dullened' of late compared to my wildly creative teens. Reading this may just have given me the kick I needed to get my head out of the sympathy cradle and back into gear - cheers!
B Thompson, UK
If you take into consideration all the relevant factors, and weigh them against the - er, what was I saying? Can you repeat the question?
Andrew Reid, London, UK
19 Dec 00 | Health
Mental decline 'starts in forties'
Other Talking Points:
Links to more Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy