How to thrive in old age. How to lose (possibly prevent) your amnesia!

I know people who have “lost their marbles”. It seems normal.

Yet, I have also known people whose bodies give up whilst their minds stay crisp until the last minute.

What is this amnesia about, I ask myself? Why does it happen? Why does it have to be normal?

I spoke to a friend about Alzheimer’s and she also thought that it was normal and something that many of will end up getting.

I think that once someone retires and they have “nothing to do” then their brains start switching off. Sometimes this happens when someone’s hobby suddenly ends, even long after retirement, e.g. they can’t play golf anymore, or they can’t fly anymore, or perhaps they can’t even walk anymore. Their hobbies are age dependent; at some point they will end; and they haven’t prepared themselves for this moment.

It seems that the people who get to a “ripe old age” get there by staying busy, by staying in touch, perhaps by watching a daily “series” on TV, by being involved in sport, or at least watching sport.

Yet, what if all the preparation we have done for our old age doesn’t help us when we get there? Are there things we can do to prepare ourselves for that age? For example, ageless pursuits such as meditation or Tai Chi, or cooking, or at least being with our families and helping the youngsters learn to cook or just improve their cooking.

There’s something else! Another angle. Perhaps something we haven’t thought of.

What if we have spent all our lives being distracted, striving for more, striving to be better, spent long days at the office, even if we work from home, and just left the really difficult stuff until “later”?

I find that I can lose myself in work. Or in sport. Or in watching TV. And perhaps then I am not dealing with the “shit” in my life. One of my meditation masters said to me that at some point you have to put your hands into your own “shit”. I know this sounds terrible, smelly! But isn’t it better to do this when our minds are young and open, rather than leave it to “the end”?

Is it possible that we get amnesia at the end of our lives because we haven’t really spent enough time talking to each other, and really getting inside our heads and our minds? And being “deep” with each other, in conversation, or simply in walking together.

I find that the age of the mobile or cell phone has led to an increase in separation, and a lessening of deep and meaningful conversation. For example, you are talking to your friend, and they are checking messages. Why does something that is happening somewhere else seem more important than what is happening in front of us?

Is it possible that we have all become voyeurs? Perhaps we don’t think of it as being a sexual thing, after all we just want to know what others are doing. And so we are distracted by our cell phones and our computers, perhaps just in case there is something more interesting happening somewhere else.

But doesn’t this mean that we are giving an “I don’t care about the person in front of me” attitude? After all, when I was doing my MBA, I learnt that the person in front of you is the most important person in your life, at that particular moment.

Marketing and selling teaches us that the person in front of us is the most important person in my life.

So how does this distraction in my essay point to Amnesia?

When I am distracted by something else, I am forgetting the person right in front of me. I might even be forgetting myself, by being distracted by outside events.

If I need to spend the time to understand myself and to get my hands dirty in my own “shit” but I spend as much time as I can being distracted by all the possibilities of what’s happening “out there”, then perhaps I haven’t put enough time into discovering who I am. Perhaps I just don’t want to know myself! Insight (meditation) is a deep and lonely journey, but there are lots of people doing it, and Buddhist teachings teach that it is a path to enlightenment.

And so my message for the new year 2017 is that if we want to prevent the amnesia of old age, that we consider spending time digging into ourselves, finding out about ourselves and learning who we are.

PS: Remember that as you dig and as you find “bad stuff” that you have friends. You are young. Your friends are around you. When you are old and lonely and perhaps in an old age home, then perhaps it is easier to forget what’s happening to you. I know that there are very many young and / or lonely people. If you are one of these, please know that you are on a very special journey, perhaps of introspection, and that there are very many people like you in this world.

PPS: Whilst everything that is outside ourselves can be considered to be a distraction, we need to enjoy our abundant planet and we need to enjoy our lives. I’m suggesting that we spend a little bit of time learning about ourselves and plunging into the pool of our thoughts to find out more about ourselves and more about who we are and why we are here.

PPPS: I am not a doctor, and I am not an Amnesia specialist. I offer this guidance as a way of considering why Amnesia might happen as we get to a certain “ripe old age.”

Originally published at