How to Remain a Superager? Some Thoughts on a Recent NYT Opinion Article

As you might expect, clinicians here at The Affinity Center field many questions having to do with what can be done on a daily basis to limit the impact of aging on memory and attention. These questions are often having to do with the usefulness of “brain games”, sudoku (and other puzzles), and computer-based programs.


A recent article in the New York Times zeroed in on an essential aspect of any of these interventions – having to push yourself mentally or physically to a point of discomfort, and tolerating this for at least a brief period of time. The article was written by Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, (New York Times, Opinion, January 1, 2017).


In addition to debunking the notion that there is a distinction between cognitive and emotional brain regions, the Times article underscored the importance of, “hard work at something. Many labs have observed that (critical regions of the brain) increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. You can therefore help keep these regions thick and healthy through vigorous exercise and bouts of strenuous mental effort.” An additional important note was, “when (these regions) increase in activity, you tend to feel pretty bad – tired, stymied, frustrated.”

“ Do it till it hurts, and then a bit more.”

A summary statement could be that we should reframe our aversion to discomfort and embrace it, at least for brief periods of time.