New Ideas About Aging Are REALLY Old
2012 10 05

By Jimmie Holland, M.D. and Mindy Greenstein, Ph.D. | PsychologyToday.com



Mr. S, a writer in his nineties, was asked to appear in court. His sons believed he was no longer competent to handle his estate. Mr. S spoke in his own defense. He agreed that he might have neglected his work recently because he had been finishing a play. After he read his play to the court, the case was quickly dismissed.

Does this sound like a story you might have read about in the newspaper recently? It so happens that Mr. S was Sophocles, and the play was Oedipus in Colonus, according to Cicero in his Essay on Old Age, written in 44 BC.

Cicero’s essay is written as a dialogue between Cato the Elder, a venerable old man of eighty four, and his young friend, Scipio, who asks if Cato would describe older age, since Scipio and his friends are “travelers who mean to take the same long journey.” Their dialogue is a direct parallel of a dialogue between the two of us— a psychiatrist in her 80’s and a psychologist barely holding on to her forties. And from the look of things, it’s clear that gerontophobia—the fear of the elderly and of growing older—has been around for thousands of years. As have been ways of combating it.


Cicero gives a lively account of aging and finds it less odious than expected, especially if you have lived a good life thus far. Sophocles isn’t the only one whose mental functioning is intact. Cicero notices that elders don’t usually forget the most important things, like where they buried their money. Two millennia ago, burying your money underground was the only way to keep it safe–so you’d best remember the spot where you buried it!

The now popular concept of mental exercises is not new, either. Cicero’s Cato practices the advice of the Pythagorean philosophers, trying to remember every night all that had transpired during the day. As to old dogs and new tricks, Cato learned Greek in his eighties, while Socrates learned to play the lyre in old age as well.

Why is Cicero’s essay important today? Similar to Cicero’s Cato, I (JH) am eighty-four myself and have been engaged in helping older people cope with aging and illness for many years. We repeatedly lament how elders are often viewed by society. It is not a pretty picture, including prejudice, annoyance, and sometimes even ridicule. One bright 92 year old woman described how humiliating it felt when her doctors repeatedly looked right past her, addressing all questions to her aide instead. Though these attitudes have a modern name—“ageism”—Cicero shows that questions about the function and role of elders have a long history.

In fact, his suggestions for coping two thousand years ago could easily appear in a 2012 self-help book. And the qualities that Cicero calls the “virtues” that help us through all stages of life— courage, humanity, integrity, kindness— could have come straight from a textbook in Positive Psychology.

Cicero tackles four common myths about aging:

1) Old age “incapacitates a man from acting in the affairs of the world.”

For Cicero, any dip in physical vigor is more than compensated for by the prudence and wisdom that elders bring to the table. More than 2,000 years later, a 2010 University of Michigan study found elders outperformed younger adults in understanding and solving complex social situations across multiple measures. This is why Cicero believed elders should feel obligated to teach the younger generation the lessons they’d learned over decades.

2) “Old age produces great infirmities of the body.”

Here, Cicero finds some justification. His advice for maintaining health:

- moderate exercise
- eat and drink amounts necessary for repairing our strength, neither too much nor too little
- “the intellectual faculties must likewise be assisted by proper care, as well as those of the body.”

Modern science similarly highlights the importance of exercising both mind and body. A new study by the Mayo clinic even suggests that exercise and computer use together help to reduce memory loss more than either activity alone.

3) Old age “disqualifies him from the enjoyment of the sensual gratifications.”

Cicero finds eating and drinking still a sensual pleasure, and he enjoys meals with friends even more. As to sex, he finds less pleasure and less inclination than when he was younger. But he thinks this is adaptive. As he writes elsewhere, it is “sensual and intemperate youth [that] hands over a worn-out body to old age” in the first place. Modern behavioral science has been a little slow to study whether Cicero is right about that. The reportedly growing problem of sexually transmitted diseases in nursing homes might suggest the issue is more complicated.

4) Old age “brings him within the immediate verge of death.”

Cicero notes that the young assume elders fear death because of its proximity in the “winter of our days”. Yet he finds they are far from preoccupied with death. Rather, they focus on living as fully as possible, accepting that nature has “appointed to the days of man, as to all things else, their proper limits.” Modern researchers have found a similarly liberating attitude.

Just like Scipio, the young fear aging, and associate it with death and loss of vitality. But Cicero reminds us that there are many ways to remain vital. Our meetings with elders cover the same topics, and we discuss them with the same frankness and humor and acceptance, as did Cicero before us.

[...]


Read the full article at: psychologytoday.com













Tune into Red Ice Radio:

Anthony Peake - Cheating The Ferryman & The Daemon

Michael Tsarion - The Post Human World

Sonia Barrett - Immortality and the Quest for Eternal Life

Aaron Franz - The Age of Transitions

Paul Hellyer - The Shadow Government, UFOs & Clean Energy ("At 88, former Canadian Cabinet Minister Paul Hellyer is still active as ever and engaged in a wide variety of world issues")












Related Articles
Can We Reverse Aging By Changing How We Think?
The Manhattan Beach Project to End Aging by 2029
The End of Aging -Are There Unknown Dangers?
The Fight to End Aging Gains Legitimacy, Funding
Castration For Longevity? Study examines eunuchs’ longer lifespans
Ecuadorean Villagers May Hold Secret to Longevity
Fountain of Youth in Bile? Longevity Molecule Identified
Aubrey de Grey, Artificial Intelligence, Singularity, Longevity and the Holy Grail
Monitoring the Elderly with CCTV and GPS: Relief or Repression?
Patients go hungry in half of hospitals: Elderly routinely left for hours without a drink
Millions of elderly patients prescribed unnecessary pills because of ’tick-box culture’, says expert
Japan’s Booming Sex Niche: Elder Porn
New Robots Can Provide Elder Care For Aging Baby Boomers


Latest News from our Front Page

Cyclopean Masonry: A Mystery of the Ancient World
2014 04 16
They don’t make things like they used to, and that is, in some cases, a monumental understatement. Silly wordplay notwithstanding, there is something to be said for the construction techniques of the old world. Where modern buildings are designed to withstand the elements; wind, temperature extremes, earthquakes and floods, today’s engineers have to strike a balance between economics ...
Megalithic Origins : Ancient connections between Göbekli Tepe and Peru
2014 04 16
At 6,500 years older than Stonehenge and 7,000 years before the pyramids were constructed, a cult megalithic complex sat atop the hills near current day Sanliurfa, in southeast Turkey. Göbekli Tepe was flourishing an astonishing 12,000 - 14,000 years ago, and today, the preserved remains still exhibits high degrees of sophistication and megalithic engineering skill. Back in the 1990’s when ...
Department of Transportation Uses LRAD Sound Cannons Against Drivers
2014 04 16
The Missouri Department of Transportation revealed two newly acquired LRAD sound cannons this week, which will reportedly be used to target vehicles that speed in work zones. Coming in at $25,000 a piece, the Long-Range Acoustic Device, a sonic weapon best know for its use against protesters and insurgents in Afghanistan, will alert drivers to road conditions by shooting a loud ...
An ’Unknown Holocaust’ and the Hijacking of History
2014 04 16
An address by Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review, delivered at an IHR meeting in Orange County, California, on July 25, 2009. (A report on the meeting is posted here.) We hear a lot about terrible crimes committed by Germans during World War II, but we hear very little about crimes committed against Germans. Germany’s defeat in May ...
Ex-Mayor Bloomberg Starting $50 Million Gun-Control Network
2014 04 16
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ramped up his efforts to fight gun violence on Wednesday with a plan to spend $50 million on a grassroots network to organize voters on gun control. The initiative’s political target is the powerful pro-gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association, that spends millions of dollars each year to back gun-rights supporters. Bloomberg’s group, called Everytown ...
More News »