Middle age is better than you think

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Middle age is better than you think


Notable essayist Pi Cheon-deuk, who died at age 97 in 2007, wrote in an essay, “Life is worth living at any age.” Born in the year when Korea was forcibly annexed to Japan, he lived through the occupation, the Korean War, economic development and democratization. It must not have been easy to live during the most turbulent times in Korea’s history. His writings reflect a dignified and elegant character and perspective on life, and I agree with his view on aging.

Of course, it isn’t easy to grow old gracefully. Last month, I received a shock when I called my mother. She told me that my father, who is 91, asked her who she was. She thought the fateful moment had finally come. His memory returned, but the family is on alert. I, too, have had trouble remembering names in recent years. I struggled for one whole day to remember that the actor in the “Die Hard” series is Bruce Willis.

The aging of the brain generally begins in middle age with the forgetting of proper nouns, which are stored in the outer layer of the brain. I could vividly remember the actor, but his name stayed on the tip of my tongue. The good news is that as long as you make efforts to retrieve the information and otherwise keep you mind active, you could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. But in your daily life, you find yourself in various awkward situations if you can’t remember names.

To those struggling with this problem, I’d like to suggest a method devised by Dr. Takuji Shirasawa, whose lectures are popular on the NHK network in Japan. He suggests writing a diary entry for two days ago. The brain has long- and short-term memory, and as you grow older, the ability to turn short-term memory into long-term memory deteriorates. So by writing about what happened two days ago, rather than recalling the events of the day, you can effectively delay the deterioration of memory.

There is one more hopeful fact for the middle-aged. Aside from cognitive agility and the ability to remember proper nouns, the middle-aged brain can display the most ability in life. Comprehensive judgment, the wisdom to predict outcomes and the insight to distinguish right from wrong all peak in middle age. After interviewing many researchers and scientists, Barbara Strauch, health and medical science editor at the New York Times, concluded that most researchers define middle age as 40 to 68, now that the average lifespan has increased. Dear middle-aged Koreans, keep hoping high!

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Noh Jae-hyun
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