This Is Your Brain On Age
Baseball is a great game. Often, a lot of attention gets paid to the phenom, the “kid.” As teams adjust and reality sets in, the reason returns and we often again celebrate the “crafty veteran.” It seems that in baseball, as in life, wisdom trumps knowledge.A recent piece in the New York Times titled “Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain” sheds new light on the expanding research into the older adult brain.
These studies are particularly meaningful for my work and our department’s major program on longevity and the baby boomers (Sacred Aging). The articles points out that, as we age we take in more information, that here is more “clutter” to sift through. That information is filtered through one’s life experience. Truth and falsity are filtered out and, the article says, the result of that filtering may be wisdom. One researcher commented that wisdom is word for what happens when the mind is able to take in data, assimilate it, and filter it into its the proper place. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge. they’re going to have a nice advantage.”This is a lesson we are trying to communicate to congregations. The revolution in longevity has produced an older Jewish population (50 years old +) that is easily the most challenging in our history. Look at the people represented in those many generations. The life experiences that they posses. And see how often our congregations ignore them. This reservoir of “spiritual capital” is ignored and we do so at our own peril.
This is the group, especially the boomers, who are changing the face of Judaism and who have created a new American Judaism. They demand adult, sophisticated answers to their life issues, not the often “pediatric” programs that they see. They crave community and relationships, moments of meaning that help define their lives. If they do not find it in their synagogue, they go elsewhere. In these brains is decades of life experience. Our communities need to engage that experience and hear those stories. Stories build relationships and relationships build caring communities.