Successful Aging: Review and Summary Notes

Successful Aging

Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives by Daniel J. Levitin

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Successful Aging


This book provides a good high-level overview of how your biological systems work and how they change as you age. I would recommend it as a jumping-off point into other books about specific issues.


“Failing memory” in old age can be a myth based on the availability heuristic (or medical student syndrome), because moments where you blankly forget what you were just about to do are just as common in old age as when you were younger, it’s just you don’t associate these moments with senility when you are younger.

My mind is blank. I walk to the kitchen thinking maybe I had stopped at the hall closet by accident on my way here, hoping that there will be some object, something in plain view, that will remind me why I’m here. I go back to the bedroom and stare at the suitcase and piles of clothes, but there is no clue there either.

This is not the first time it’s happened. In fact, it’s nothing new—I used to do this in my thirties, but back then, I just figured I was distracted. If I wasn’t a neuroscientist, I’d be worried now, in my sixties, that this was a sure sign that my brain is decaying and that I’ll soon be in an assisted living facility waiting for someone to feed me my dinner of smashed peas and pulverized carrots. But the research literature is comforting—these kinds of slips are normal and routine as we age and are not necessarily indicative of any dark, foreboding illness.

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