The experts posit that one of the manifestations of neurocognitive decline, aka dementia, more commonly known as Alzheimer's is a measurable decline in the ability to learn.* I am safe on this measure, as every week I seem to learn something new. In many ways I am still a work in progress; I am under construction.
Some of this is discovering entirely new things, some of it is learning that what I thought I knew was incomplete, or even worse wrong. Yes, sometimes our teachers, sometimes the experts we relied on were simply wrong.** Human understanding is constantly evolving. Even if you "know it all today," you won't tomorrow, and part of what you know, is simply wrong. Our knowledge base is under constant construction and rebuilding.
In law school they taught us to be careful of absolute statements. Never say "No One" or "Everyone", say things like we have been unable to identify a person who has done X, or an exhaustive search yielded no one who has done X, or the vast majority or nearly everyone. Even as I write this I realize that citing contrary examples in the sentence above makes it harder to offer examples and probably confuses some readers. There is a better way to construct that sentence.
Some experts in cognitive ability, say that our brains reindex or reorganize information as we get older. I have read a couple of sources that say this is most intense in our late 50's and 60's.*** Some cultures talk about the wisdom of age, this may well be what they are talking about, a deeper understand of what we know, based on our brains sorting and organizing.**** I have felt some of this as I pass through that age range. I am more likely to see the flaws in my past logic, to question my dogma. I am still learning why I have two ears and one mouth, so I can listen twice as much as I talk. I am still under construction. Then again, may the experts I have relied on for this are quacks.
I asked a question in a department meeting recently, went around the group gathering input. I got to the last person, and before they spoke they said, "well what do you think about this?" My answer was I know what I think, what I need to know is what you think, so I can evaluate my understanding, maybe I am wrong. ***** I can only build, by learning from others.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I try to construct entries that make me think to write them, that allow my readers to think, together we are constructing this sweet little blog world.
*My professional work includes research into dementia and decision making.
** In the 1930's my grandmother's doctor advised her to take up smoking to strengthen her lungs.
*** I enjoy reading this stuff both for work and for pleasure, my pleasure reading is often fact seeking.
**** There are also cultures that see dementia as reaching a higher level of consciousness or personal development.
***** And even if I am, it is a change we have no real control over, it is going to happen no matter what we think. All we can change is how we adapt to it. Well I guess we could all quit.