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Brain researchers have learned that our brains are just as capable of learning in the second half of life as in the first half. In addition, we've also learned more by this time, simply by growing older and having more time to learn.
So, in many ways, the brain is like a new wine, growing richer with each new season.
In fact, you might consider aging to be good news. Not only do we?and our brains?continue to learn, but we also acquire priceless wisdom.
Good News About Aging
In healthy people, the basic ways our brains learn probably don't change much as we age?it's just that learning may take a bit longer. But when we learn something well, it tends to stick with us just as well as it did in younger years.
The skills we learned earlier in life and practiced over the years?like analyzing the stock market or playing tennis?may now be at their finest.
We develop a richer vocabulary, and a better understanding of how to use these words effectively.
Our short-term memory and ability to recall events from our past both tend to hold up well as we grow older.
Our memory for factual and conceptual information?which we use to analyze situations and solve problems?also remains well preserved.
Gaining Wisdom As We Age
Wisdom can be defined as the ability to grasp the essence of complex situations or problems and to act upon this understanding.
Wisdom is almost always associated with older age: We grow wiser through our increasing years of experience.
From childhood on, we gain experience in all aspects of life. By the time we are older, we've been exposed to more situations and, have probably learned from past mistakes as well as past successes.
We can use the lessons we've learned over the decades, applying them to the challenges and opportunities we face every day. This gives us a wonderful advantage in making important judgments and decisions.
"We can make the brain work better simply by accumulating more knowledge, which builds more networks of connections in the brain," says James McGaugh. "The wisdom we acquire can compensate for the decline that may be gradually occurring."
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