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.

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Rabbi Richard Address, D.Min

About Rabbi Richard Address, D.Min

Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min., is the spiritual leader at Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ. He also is the founder and editor of, an online Jewish forum featuring resources and discussions about the longevity revolution and its implications for baby boomers and their families.

2 Responses to “This Is Your Brain On Age”

  1. avatar

    I am an older person and I couldnt agree more with this article. My personal experience is I need to be engaged and challenged a lot. I find when facing a challenge things that used to be difficult for me arent as difficult now.I clearly see having more life experiences has given me that edge. I volunteer a lot for my Temple and the challenges that would have been more difficult for me come so much easier at my stage in life now. Also my experience in working with the elderly is that people tend to ignore them.These bright people have a lot to say if you just it down and ask them about their life.

  2. avatar

    Like many of the people that Rabbi Address refers to, our Temple was an integral part of our family life as our children went from early childhood into adulthood, marriage and parenting. Now that our lives are not focused on providing Jewish experiences for our children, we find that the Temple has little to offer in the way of “sophisticated answers” to life’s issues. Even regular worship services are often geared to young children, featuring special music, simplified liturgy, and programs that start at times inconvenient for many working adults. I wonder if Temples are not preoccupied with attracting young families at the expense of their older, long-term members who do not resonate with child-oriented programs.

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