Embracing older age? Trying new things (and yes, sometimes even being a little silly) can support your brain health

Here at Synaptitude (virtual) HQ, we were delighted to welcome another guest for a chat about aging well and keeping minds and bodies fit and healthy.

This guest was none other than the brilliant Stephanie Raffelock, self-described novelist, essayist, blogger, wife, dog-mommy, dancer and dreamer. She’s also the author of A Delightful Little Book on Aging which proudly tells the story of the journey into older age with the help of wisdom, wit and a philosophy of gratitude.

The book has been described as a “heart-warming companion for anybody who wishes to age without sugar-coating the losses while continuing to live life with an open spirit” (Andrew F. Polard)

Stephanie chatted to Dr. Max Cynader (our resident brain-geek) to talk about her experiences of helping herself and others to age positively.

We’ll be sharing Stephanie’s story and inspiring tales of changing the conversation about getting older. This is part of a series of conversations with Stephanie.

Stephanie Raffelock shares her experience of embracing aging, drawing people closer and dressing up as a witch at Lake Austin.

Stephanie is crystal clear when it comes to aging, that it’s a blessing despite the difficulties people face in navigating some of the trickier parts of the process.

“I think that we need to see age for what it is, it’s a remarkable and noble passage. We have to start holding it like that. There are body systems that do break down and there are things that you can do to ameliorate that so that we live healthy lifestyles up till the end of life. But I think the first thing we have to do is to really embrace the years and embrace this passage.”

For Stephanie, ‘growing-up’ has been an opportunity to be more reflective and contemplative. She feels like she’s grown into an elder, but she’s adamant this doesn’t mean she’s all bead-reading and sage advice. It’s much more than that; it’s all about drawing people towards you.

“It’s a living by example thing that makes young people drawn to you. And I think that’s another secret, that it’s very important that in our friendships that we have a diversity of friendships, that we have young people as friends, as well as people our same age as friends.” Maintaining an active social life and diverse friendships is good for your brain because social interactions engage your memory, attention, and other cognitive abilities. 

Try Assessment

Young at Heart

Does having young friends keep us young? That’s certainly how Stephanie sees it. For her, this journey is best taken with companions that can keep encouraging us along, and refuse to let us settle into inertia, or worse still, apathy. Stephanie likes to be kept on her toes.

“Young people will challenge us. I have a group of women that I hike with that are all 10 or 15 years younger than I am. Now, I may be the back of the pack, but I keep up with them and I can go exactly where they go. Recently I joined another group of friends. We put on witches hats and we paddle-boarded around Lake Austin, yelling ”Trick or Treat” to the people on the shoreline. It was great. I think a sense of play is one of the secrets. But I would start with that embracing of the years, embracing this remarkable passage.”.

Being in the moment, playfulness and a healthy disregard for what other people think are all part of embracing this noble passage of aging with a distinct lack of seriousness. For Stephanie, this lightness to life brings with it a continued sense of curiosity, and more importantly, gratitude. 

“I know a lot of people that are thriving at this stage of life because they’re writing, because they’re painting, because they’re gardening, because they’re doing these masterful things that they didn’t have time to do when they were supporting kids and a mortgage and all of that.”

It’s about keeping the mind transforming and making sure we continue to grow new neural pathways by keeping that engine in good order. When you try new activities, you take advantage of your brain’s capacity to change (for the better) across your lifespan. The Synaptitude Lifestyle Assessment is a free tool for determining how your brain is performing right now, and if it might be time to get a bit silly or try something new; for your wellbeing, of course.

“We need encouragement to seize the days, to live the joy of life, and that comes with diet and exercise and the stress alleviators and all of those are contributing factors. So, that’s my message, and I’m sticking to it.”

And who are we to argue with that?

Find more information on Stephanie Raffelock, and her upcoming book release by visiting her website. Thanks for the conversation Stephanie from Team Synaptitude.