Citizen Brain: “Age Without Ageism”

Citizen Brain: “Age Without Ageism”


(energetic jazzy music) – What if I told you there’s a simple way you could add seven-and-a-half
years to your life? A procedure that doesn’t cost a thing, and doesn’t involve doing
anything difficult or unpleasant? Well, I’m happy to
report that this miracle treatment exists, and you can
start doing it right away, even before you’ve finished
watching this video. It’s backed by science, it’s totally safe, and it’s all in your mind. (harp strums) Here’s the secret. Are you ready? You need to think positively about aging. Really, that’s it. Think good thoughts about getting old! Yale Professor Becca Levy
has shown that people with a positive attitude
towards aging live, on average, seven-and-a-half years longer than those with a negative attitude. And they often feel younger as well. – In our study, in the Irish
Longitudinal Study on Aging, where we looked at aging
perceptions and coupled those measures with objective brain
health and physical measures, we found that many people
had a positive attitude. They considered themselves younger than their chronological age. Maybe somebody of 60, 65 would say, “But I feel 40!” – So what’s stopping us from
feeling good about aging? Ageism! And right here, I want
to make a distinction about aging versus ageism. Aging is normal, it’s a fact of nature! All of us are aging, all the time. Are you aging? Great, that means you’re alive! On the other hand, there’s
nothing natural about ageism. Ageism, when you
discriminate against people just because of how old they are, that’s a kind of social sickness. We shouldn’t try to fight
aging, and we can’t anyhow! We can, and should, fight ageism. (energetic piano music) When does ageism begin
seeping into our psyches? It starts early. From the time we’re little kids, we’re bombarded by the message
that old age is just awful. Old people are depicted as
fools, creeps, monsters! Who’d want to end up like that? Yecch! This horror continues
as we age, when we do everything we can to try
to keep looking young. Except that, when we
actually get to old age, it’s usually a lot nicer than we expected! Studies show that people at
either end of the age spectrum tend to be happier than
those in the middle. Behold the U-Curve of Happiness! Another benefit of old age
is that we tend to get wiser. – One of the things that’s
beautiful about wisdom is you’re able to know what’s
important and what’s not. You’re able to see what’s
valuable, what’s central, what gets you where you need
to be, and what is peripheral. Younger people have a much harder time. All of us in our world, it’s so busy. We’ve got so many distractions. Everyone’s telling us that
everything’s important at once. If you want to cut through that
and get to the real meaning, ask somebody older. – [Josh] In our brain, wisdom builds up in the Semantic Appraisal Network, which you could call the Wisdom Network. – It’s connecting an area of the brain, that’s the anterior temporal lobes, that seems to help us access knowledge. There’s another part of the network, some areas in what we call
the orbitofrontal cortex, which is sort of right behind our eyes and up above a little bit. That area’s involved
in making evaluations. And those are very tightly connected. And then the amygdala’s in there too. The amygdala helps us immediately notice when we’ve made an evaluation that’s personally relevant to us. Either it could be a
punishment or a reward here. We want to sit up and take notice and maybe behave differently. – Old age, and the wisdom it brings, doesn’t just help guide our behavior. It may even have been responsible for the survival of the human race! Of all the animals in
the world, only humans and a couple kinds of whales tend to live for many years past
their reproductive age. So why all these extra years? One possible answer comes from
the Grandparent Hypothesis. One advantage humans may have
had over other animals is that with our extra years of life, we could have three
generations living together. So while the parents went
out to get some food, the grandparents could
babysit their grandchildren. – The idea is that these old
people can provide subsidies in terms of calories,
food, or protection or, more interesting, knowledge,
cultural knowledge, that they can pass on via
language to their younger kin, meaning their grandchildren
and their children and nieces and so forth. And because these young
individuals are related to them, by definition they have a
higher chance of sharing the same genes. – For centuries, people have searched for the Fountain of Youth, when it turns out that all along we had the Fountain of Old Age! At this point, some of my
younger viewers may be thinking, “Wow, Josh, being old sounds great! How can I become an old person?” And my answer is, be patient, and take good care of yourself. Which means joining the
fight against ageism. Because ageism isn’t
just an attack on others, it’s an attack on ourselves. Ageism is the only “universal” prejudice. If we live long enough,
we’ll all have a chance to suffer from it. So when we think bad
thoughts about older people, we’re also being biased
against our future selves. So how do we make the transition
to an age without ageism? We can start by making sure that everyone has something meaningful to work for, even after they stop working. – You know the Blue Zones,
the areas of the world where populations live oldest? One of the things they
have in common is purpose. That as people get older,
they still have purpose. There are always needs. There’s needs everywhere in society, and everybody can contribute
to helping with those needs. Everybody. – So let’s learn to age without ageism! We’ll be healthier, we’ll live longer, we’ll love ourselves at
every stage of our life, and we’ll be better equipped to succeed in an increasingly complex,
even contradictory world that requires us all to
depend on one another. Let’s treat our future selves
with kindness and compassion. And then, while we’re at it, let’s do the same for everyone else! (peppy bass guitar and organ music)

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    Jamie Jobb

    No human being has ever worn more courageously colorful and expertly fitted floralized shirts on TV before Josh raised the bar. A singularly solo performer with a singularly solo wardrobe! Thanks Sara for keeping Josh sartorially correct on camera!

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