Brain food, Keeping Active, Mature knowledge, Re-tyrement

Hi-Ho Silver Lining

“If you are 65 now, then you really ought to bank on living to at least 86 as a man, and 89 as a woman. That is the new average according to the handy Stats NZ life expectancy calculator.”  John McCrone

 The New Longevity

Much food for thought in an interesting recent Stuff article on the “new longevity” by John McCrone: Not dead yet. Making the most of the new longevity.

With the help of a range of experts and comments from the target age group McCrone seeks answers to the questions: Is 70-something a new stage of life, but one without a proper role? With the way we all live longer now, how should this bonus time be used?

One topic of discussion not really covered was the cognition condition of  the typical septuagenarian  cerebral  bag of marbles.

Brain Plasticity


Barbara Arrowsmith-Young*, Toronto based author of  The Woman Who Changed Her Brain was the new neuroscience lay pioneer of some key  general principles and practices of brain plasticity, distilled from her do-it-to-herself approach to fixing her own learning disabilities.

These practices can be taught to assist learners strengthen weak cognitive capacities underlying learning dysfunctions through a programme of specific cognitive exercises.

Dr Norman Doidge pointed out in 2007 in The Brain That Changes Itself  that, within certain constraints individuals can be their own brain’s programmer.  Learning transforms brains. Practitioners of Neural Linguistic Programming had long taught this. Now neuoroscientific tools provided direct insights of how this happened at the nano neuron level.

In their 2010 piece Brain Power Peaks In The Silver Set  Swinford and Kerbaj* pulled together and popularised an  interesting synthesis of research which is part of a wider reappraisal into intelligence which “has overturned the notion that intelligence peaks in the late twenties, prompting a long, slow and inevitable decline.”

Da Neu Ron Ron

Whether it is still dancing to an old rock ‘n roll number or exploring new activities, the evidence is Crystals clear.

That’s reassuring. Even if some of us are still not sure what we’re going to do when we grow up, many  mature people are apprehensive about the possible onset of the dreaded Mental Brewer’s Droop in its various manifestations, from minor short-term memory loss to the big A.

But it seems that while short-term memory may, in fact, decline with old age, long-term memory in most people remains unaffected and a person’s vocabulary, emotional intelligence and social skills may all get better.

Of course a sad minority has real problems.  About 1% of the population, sufferers from dementia.  With demographic changes, this number is predicted to rise by 400% by mid century.

Cerebral silver lining

Older people are able to retain and hone an effective a range of skills. It appears that expert knowledge is stored in brain cells known as dendritic spines which seem to be protected against ageing by a metaphorical silver lining.

Until fairly recently some in the more mature ranks have been more concerned with dandruff and dentures than dentrites.   Bur when it comes to decision-making, it also turns out that older people are more likely to be more rational than young people because their brains are less susceptible to surges of dopamine, the feel good hormone that can lead to impulsive reactions and dopey decisions.

Despite slower brain speed, older people apparently solve problems more efficiently, drawing on “cognitive templates” of how they resolved similar problems in the past. The key is the process for problem solving not the content of the answer.

We know that top sports people are considered over the hill in their mid-30s, though there are more and more exceptions,  but many of the most influential people in politics, business, law, literature and science are in their late fifties and sixties or older. Management gurus W. Edwards Deming and Peter Drucker were both still lecturing in their mid-90s.

Not only changing demographic patterns but also the loss of significant cognitive resources have led to demands for the retirement age to be lifted in some professions in the UK.

New Zealand no longer has an obligatory retirement age, though age 65, when national superannuation kicks in, has become the target retirement age for many New Zealanders.  But an increasing number are staying on in the work force, not necessarily because they have to but because they want to.

However, the older and more experienced often struggle to hold on to their present positions, let alone gain new ones.


The ageist struggle starts more than two decades earlier for executive aspirants. Over the years there have been different  invisible barriers in respect to senior management jobs. First the class ceiling, which kept out those from the wrong side of the school tracks; then the glass ceiling, which kept out women.

Now it’s the crass ceiling which favours the young and brash at the expense of the mature and experienced.  In the light of the findings above, this is waste management. It ignores  distilled experience and knowledge in a society which  is data and information rich but knowledge and wisdom poor.

Generation S

We’ve heard a lot about Generations X and Y and so on. Let’s now hear it for Generation S-the  65+years old silver set.

Those of us in this age bracket are in our element.  Just as silver is precious, with the highest electrical conductivity of any metal,  21st century research demonstrates that  “silver-lined” neurons are pretty good at conducting the impulses which are the functional units of the nervous system.

With the right physical and mental exercise, neurons can be kept in better nick at later life passages for more people than hitherto thought.

So  pre-shroud every cloud  has a silver lining. Most members of Generation S are capable of rendering sterling service if they keep their knowledge and skills polished

Let’s go on The Attack and claim back their feel good 1960s song Hi-Ho Silver Lining*  from  noisy English football clubs like Everton and make it the anthem of a resurgent and resplendent Silver Generation everywhere.

Hi-Ho Silver Lining   (Scott English / Larry Weiss)

You’re everywhere and nowhere, baby,   That’s where you’re at
Going down the bumpy hillside in your hippie hat
Flying across the country and getting fat
Saying everything is groovy When your tires are flat 
And it’s hi-ho silver lining  Anywhere you go now, baby
I see your sun is shining but I will make a fuss  Though it’s obvious…

*Blinks 24/11/18
Barbara Arrowsmith-Young – Shaping the Mind/Enhancing Different Cognitive Functions (pt1) Vid  Hi-Ho Silver Lining first released as a single in March 1967 by The Attack and a few days later by Jeff Beck  Vid  -Everton Fans at  Wembley Singing Hi-Ho Silver Lining  Vid
Send “Hi Ho Silver Lining” Ringtone to your Cell Da Doo Ron Ron The Crystals Vid

 Lyall Lukey– Liveserver, Silververve


1 thought on “Hi-Ho Silver Lining”

  1. I agree that there was much food for thought in John McCrone’s recent Stuff article “Not dead yet: Making sense of the new longevity” ( )

    Some extracts that resonated with me:

    “Studies show that life for most reaches its low between 45 and 55. That is when it is pressure coming at you from all directions. But it improves again after that. The older become less anxious about keeping up, more attentive about what matters. There is a greater realism, less self-concern. And – while still able to get out and about – not even as much loneliness on the whole.

    …..wealth, and even health, were not top of the list as might be expected when it came to a sense of wellbeing in the elderly. Their answers were more spiritual. Love, value, respect and independence were cited as being more important than fighting off the ravages of time. Part of the rethinking is making a sharper distinction between growing old and getting frail.

    People regard being “properly old” as when a person needs active care – once dementia sets in or the body is finally breaking down and they become dependent. Until then, you are simply living longer.
    “We have to flip around this language of frailty, this deficit thinking about how people age, to talk about intrinsic capacity – the ability to do things, rather than not to do things.”
    “If a person becomes inactive and doesn’t eat good food – sufficient protein – then the 70s can be a tipping point for a loss of function.”
    But science has shown the human body responds to the mental and physical demands placed on it.
    “We’ve done interventions with people in their 70s and even 80s who were considered pre-frail. You can make unbelievable changes in reversing that by doing the right lifestyle things.”
    It is about forging the correct expectations to match the expanding life expectancies.

    Head of Auckland University’s School of Population Health Professor Ngaire Kerse’s mind leaps to the very different cultural experience of Māori. She co-leads a longitudinal study of 400 Māori, aged 80 to 90, and what really stands out is the social value given to Māori elders in terms of their life experience and wisdom. “It is explicit that the older people do have a role and so are called upon all the time,” Kerse says. It is part of the protocol of their everyday life, built into the structure of calling on the marae as well as whanau relations. Kerse says a similar study of Pākehā found they were also the glue of their communities. But in a much less visible way. “Older people do establish themselves with roles. We asked a group of 85-year-old Pākehā if they were volunteering or looking after other people, and a good third of them were actively doing stuff.”

    Is there room for a recognised trade-off where wisdom is offered in place of speed, patience in place of energy?
    There is much for society to learn. However it starts with recognising that longevity is creating a new life stage, says Pearman.
    There is a reason those in their 70s and 80s are protesting they are not dead yet. Yet neither are they pretending to be young.
    After that comes the need for a conversation about what it should mean now that we are all likely to live rather longer.”

    Surprisingly the article doesn’t talk at all about becoming comfortable with the idea of dying. Yet at my age it seems entirely appropriate to accept the idea that I might die at any time, and to accept it with grace and no fear. There is no need to see it as a battle to survive.


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