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Marcia Barhydt Headshot

Is 90 the New 60?

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For the past few years, I've been writing about Baby Boomers; how much they have to give, their knowledge and wisdom, their value and the prejudice of ageism as applied to these boomers.

Boomers are a pretty hot item now as more and more reach their retirement age. But Boomers are only a portion of the "older" demographic of our population. Another quickly growing group is our over 90 population. And there can be large challenges to belonging to this group, both physical and mental.

There are, however, bonuses to being over 90. One of the bonuses, surprisingly, is new proof that the ageing brain may be more capable than we have imagined. Who among us has not worried about Alzheimer's; has not made a mental note of all the things we seem to be forgetting, and then forgotten about that mental note as well.

An article titled "The aging brain: Why getting older just might be awesome" by Amanda Enayati, she wonders, "But what if, in fact, the aging brain is more capable than its younger counterpart at creativity and innovation? It's a compelling proposition in our society, where more and more seniors are looking for jobs and going back to work (the number of working seniors has more than doubled since 1990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics); where ageism is rampant in many areas (particularly hiring); and where innovation is, for the most part, considered a young person's domain." Employment is certainly not the only culprit of prejudice against our ageing brain; if you look, you'll find it everywhere -- maybe even in your own mind.

The feeling I have is probably much like your own concept of our ageing brains; we best make hay while the sun shines, because even if we escape the curse of Alzheimer's, we won't get away from being less and less sharp, interesting, or savvy. Our mind will no longer be a steel trap but maybe more like a willow snare, ready to be stretched and shortened by its own will or the will of whatever is caught there for the moment.

It's the isolation that contributes so heavily to our empty minds. I'm a proponent of ageing in place, but that can often mean isolation for the person and that person's mind. We need to keep our minds occupied no matter what our age, especially as we grow older sometimes in the isolation of our own homes. Don't we all madly do crossword puzzles every week in the belief that they'll help us keep our edge?

Lots of my friends tell me that I interrupt their conversations quite a bit, and I have to hang my head in acknowledgment. But I have such a valid argument for being rude with interrupting -- if I don't interrupt you and tell you what thoughts I have in my mind at this very moment, then I'll forget.

When I think back to the grandparents of a few generations ago, I think I see a wonderful solution to keeping our brains engaged. At some point the grandparents moved back in with one of their own kids. Which put them in the same place as their grandchildren who are always excited about listening to our stories. These kids give us a second chance to share some of our wisdom, to keep our minds active with challenge each and every day.

There's also the blessing that a 90-year-old mind has the confidence to start something new that we never would or could have started when we were 50. I'm not 90 myself, (just a puppy at 68 starting my own career of writing) but I know of another contributor here at HuffPost, Rhoda Curtis, who is the author of two books. Rhoda is 93. How inspiring is that?

Do I think my brain will be better at 90 than it is now? I'm not sure, but I do think it'll be wiser and I do think it'll still have all kinds of wonderful ideas to share with younger people. I do think that my mind will continue to be the product of a better brain or at least a more innovated and inspired brain.

What do you think?