Positive Psychology is the scientific study of human flourishing; the study and application of what it takes for people and communities to adapt and thrive; and the study of building the best things in life.
Chris Peterson, PhD
addition to Rotarians being an amazing group of “Service-Above-Self” folks,
they also tend to be role models of healthy living. The purpose of this writing
is to share more evolving neuroscience that is both invigorating and empowering;
the goal is to enhance what you’ve been doing as a distinguished role model who
gives wise counsel.
begin with an example of how evolving neuroscience can be used to tweak how we
help self and others. Across my entire career, I’ve encouraged focusing on the
fact that we just have more data on and in our minds as we age, much like the
fact that all my important papers used to be portable in a briefcase. In
comparison, the “important papers” now crowd 27 file drawers in five filing
cabinets; that requires a remarkably different complex set of skills to get in
the right drawer before finding the paper that must be found.
elegant way of stating that came from the research of Ramscar and colleagues after
they completed a series of random controlled trials. They wrote that the
performance of elders “reflects increased knowledge, not cognitive decline.” They
emphasized that changes in cognitive performance around retirement age reflect
greater memory search demands as experience grows. They were adamant that
viewing an aging population as a problem that is bound to place undue burdens
on society would “only serve to perpetuate myths” such that “the myth of
cognitive decline is leading to an absurd waste of human potential and human
restate that in the empowering perspective of Positive Psychology: By believing
that our differences in memory and in processing information with aging are
associated with the richness of our life experiences, we hold onto the positive
emotions that can improve our immune response as well as enhance our motivation
to keep on keeping on. This could give us a much better purchase on our efforts
and resolve to build better brains for a positively evolving personal best. How
rich could that be?!
rather lovely example of aging well is the oldest working nurse, Florence
Rigney, RN, who turned 92 in May 2017. KING-5 in Seattle quotes her saying she
feels “honored and humbled” to still be working at Tacoma General Hospital in
Washington, USA, as well as “very blessed to be still able to function.”
excellent role model is Frieda Lefeber who had her first solo art exhibit at
the age of 100. Working as a nurse for more than fifty years influenced her
commitment to healthy lifestyle choices which reportedly includes exercising
five mornings a week. Shouldn’t we all do that?
of exercising: There is some new research now on Robert Marchand of France who set
a world record for his age group by bicycling 14 miles in one hour at the age
of 105. His ten years of bicycling ended at the age of 25 when he began his
career as “a gardener and wine dealer.” His first
world record in track cycling was achieved in 2012 when he was in the over-100
age group and completed 24.250 kilometers in one-hour.
improved his performance two years later at the age of 103!
A group of scientists studied Mr. Marchand for two years during which Mr. Marchand trained 5,000 kilometers per year with 20% of his cycling at a rapid rate of perceived exertion and pedaling at a rate between 50 and 70 revolutions per minute. Granted, this is only a case study; however, it is noteworthy that it is the first proof of a centenarian having capacity to improve physical performance and maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max)! These scientists suggest that this improved performance in centenarians is a way to “add life to life.”
particularly pertinent to Brain Health. Aerobic
exercise could help you build a better brain because research has shown
that sufficient aerobic exercise can:
reduce toxins in your brain – even those associated with Alzheimer’s disease;
reduce inflammation which has been associated with neurodegeneration; reverse
some of the effects of aging; improve your immune response; increase your
healthy cholesterol and lower you LDL; protect against brain damage; elevate
your mood (better than medications); AND improve your sleep, memory,
concentration, speed and executive functions. Also, so believe that aerobically
fit folks have more fun!
Thus, we have three role models of Outliers for Brain Health. Ms. Rigney has enjoyed an extended career. Ms. Lefeber has excelled in the arts. And Mr. Marchand gives us the first proof that a centenarian can improve physical performance and VO2Max to “add life to life.”