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05 Oct 2023

Strengthen your brain abilities


The words to a song made famous by Bing Crosby set the scene for a key part of the ageing agenda. Namely: you've got to accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative.

United States biology professor Dr Bruce Yanker would concur. In fact, he says certain abilities improve with age for most people. 

Rather than thinking about capabilities being on the downward slope instead continue to hone your skills with dedication and precision. 

Here is a check list of brain benefits for making a difference to attitude. 

  1. Inductive reasoning.

Older people are less likely to rush to judgment and more likely to reach the right conclusion based on the information. This is an enormous help in everyday problem solving from planning and managing one’s day. 

  1. Verbal abilities.

In middle age, you continue to expand your vocabulary and hone your ability to express yourself. Watching older people whip through word puzzles and the like confirm this. 

  1. Spatial reasoning.

Remember those quizzes that require you to identify an object that has been turned around? You are likely to score better on them in your 50's and 60's than you did in your teens. And you may be better at some aspects of driving, too, because you are better able to assess the distance between your car and other objects on the road.

  1. Basic math.

You may be better at dividing the bill at a meal or adding up a series of shopping. 

  1. Accentuating the positive.

The amygdala, the area of the brain that consolidates emotion and memory, is less responsive to negatively charged situations in older people than in younger ones, which may explain why studies have shown that people over 60 tend to brood less

6. Attaining contentment.

Years ago, researchers were surprised to find that people seem to be more satisfied with their lives as they age, despite the losses that accumulate with passing years. This is probably because they tend to minimize the negative, accept their limitations and use their experience to compensate for them, and set reasonable goals for the future. Ironically this trait may be innate, because it is prevalent even in Western nations which show a tendency to value youth over age.

Maybe this attitude needs a rethink. 

7. Sayonara to senior moments. 

A host of studies in the past decade have shown that the more mature brain actually has advantages over its younger counterpart. These findings came as a surprise to many people, who were accustomed to seeing "senior moments"—groping for the right word or taking longer to articulate your thoughts—as a sign that the brain was in decline.

Yet even in professions where youth is valued, testing has shown that maturity has advantages. For example, in a study of air-traffic controllers and airline pilots, those between ages 50 and 69 took longer than those under 50 to master new equipment. Once they had, they made fewer mistakes using it. Helpful when going about learning a new computer programme or even buying a new car. 

Bear in mind that this ‘mastery’ that comes with maturity is due to changes in your glands as well as your brain. Declining levels of testosterone—even in women—result in better impulse control.

The end of the hormonal roller coaster of menopause may also contribute to emotional stability. After midlife, people are less likely to have emotional issues like mood swings and neuroses that interfere with cognitive function.

Most importantly, the wealth of knowledge from decades of learning and life experience enables you to better assess new situations.

At midlife, most people are more adept at making financial decisions and getting to the heart of issues than they were when they were younger.


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Date Published: April 2018

Reviewed: September 2022

To be reviewed: September 2025