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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 19, 2013/ 9 Adar, 5773

The age of achievement: Doctors say it's all downhill from 45. History suggests otherwise

By Paul Johnson





http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Doctors say it’s all downhill from 45. History suggests otherwise

A study in the British Medical Journal suggests that our brains begin to deteriorate from the age of 45. Examining the vocabulary, comprehension and memories of 7,000 45- to 70-year-olds, the researchers found a 3.6 per cent decline in the second half of their forties.

This will come as a surprise to students of history. Men and women have achieved positions of power at all stages of life, but it is remarkable how many have lived in obscurity until their forties and gone on to do remarkable things. A good example was Oliver Cromwell, who only stepped into the public sphere in his late forties (he was born in 1599). He became the key figure in the creation of the most formidable army in Europe, and led it to overwhelming success. He then switched to civil government, became Lord Protector at the age of 53, and ran one of the most successful administrations in English history until his death.

The United States provides many such examples. George Washington, born in 1732, developed into a successful general in his late forties, and was 57 when he became president. His last months in office were notable for shrewdness and perception. His Farewell Address of 19 September 1796 is a model of clarity, good sense and statesmanship. Abraham Lincoln, too, born in 1809, did not come to national prominence until he was in his late forties, and all his achievements were accomplished in his fifties. General Dwight Eisenhower was 54 when he was Supreme Commander of the D-Day invasion of Europe. He was 62 when he became president, and passed his 70th birthday in office.

Ronald Reagan was a man who progressed to ever-increasing responsibilities in his forties, fifties and sixties, and was president in his seventies. He succumbed to Alzheimer’s during his retirement, but examination of the records of his last year in office shows no sign of deterioration: quite the contrary.

If we look at the British prime ministers of the 19th and 20th centuries, we find outstanding examples of men achieving supreme office, or holding it, late in life, sometimes very late. Lord Palmerston, born in 1784, held Cabinet office for a greater proportion of his long life than any other man in our history, and died in office aged 80. He did not get into 10 Downing Street until he was over 70, but then with the exception of one brief period remained there for good. His wit, if anything, increased. A fortnight before his death he accompanied Queen Victoria to a military review in Hyde Park. When she complained of the smell of the sweaty troops, he replied: ‘Yes, Ma’am. It is known as esprit de corps.’ His last recorded remark, delivered with his characteristic staccato laugh, was: ‘Die, my dear doctor? That’s the last thing I shall do.’

Gladstone was prime minister four times, on the last occasion aged nearly 83. He was very deaf and almost blind, but that did not prevent him from combining his prime ministerial duties with translating Homer, preparing and delivering with great aplomb the Romanes Lecture in Oxford, and sorting out the complex financial affairs of Lord Granville, who was bankrupt. Gladstone’s record was unique, but it was by no means unusual for politicians to emerge to prominence in late middle age. A good example was Stanley Baldwin. He was born in 1867, and was for many years an unnoticed backbench MP. In 1922, at the age of 55, he became chancellor. A year later he was promoted to prime minister, over the head of a furious Lord Curzon, who described him as ‘a person of the utmost insignificance’. Yet Baldwin was premier for two other spells, governing with great cunning, handling the General Strike with brilliant skill, the abdication crisis with dexterity, and resigning with general applause aged 70. It may be that he underestimated the perils of Hitlerism, but so did everyone else except Churchill.

Lloyd George was born in 1863, and when he scrambled into supreme office at the end of 1916, he was 53. Yet opinion was unanimous that he brought to the premiership astonishing energy and attention to detail, lightning quickness of mind and a huge grasp of essential principles — all the qualities supposedly in rapid decline in a person of his age. When Churchill in turn became prime minister for the first time, he was 65, and he held the job, with ever-increasing power and authority, as he put it himself, for five years. The opinion both of contemporaries, and of historians since, is that no one could have done it so well. In 1951 he began his second premiership, aged nearly 77.

Of course it may be true that the work of statesmen depends greatly on experience, which compensates for any falling off in cerebral powers. Churchill certainly benefited by what he had gone through in the first world war. But if we look at the whole field of human activities, there are many areas where experience seems less significant. Among the leading composers, for example, Verdi and Wagner were both born in 1813. They wrote works of distinction at all periods of their life, but there is general agreement that their more formidable creations were produced from their late forties onwards. Verdi was 74 when he composed Otello, and 80 when he produced Falstaff. Wagner was past 60 when he wrote Götterdammerung, and even older when Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal emerged. Again, Beethoven was 53 when he wrote his Ninth Symphony. His finest chamber works were the products of his late fifties.

In painting and sculpture, manual dexterity almost inevitably declines at a certain age. But Michelangelo was born in 1475 and worked practically to his death in 1564. When he began ‘the Last Judgment’ in the Sistine Chapel he was 61, and he was 66 before he finished it. All of his best architecture was done in middle age or later: he did not begin to work on St Peter’s until he was 71. Tintoretto’s best work in the Scuola di San Rocco dates from his fifties and sixties, and some from his seventies. When Titian painted ‘Diana and Actaeon’ he was in his seventies. Painters often produce their finest work in their fifties. This was true of Rubens and Rembrandt, Velazquez and Claude, Goya and Fragonard. The fifties, for painters, seems to be the stage when skills peak, before age erodes the ability to use the brush.

There may be activities where maturity comes soon and departs early. Mathematics is accounted such in popular wisdom, though the experience of Newton and Einstein does not confirm it. It is true that Newton’s great work, his Principia Mathematica, on which he had worked for 25 years, was published in 1687 when he was 45. True also that both Einstein’s Special Theory and his General Theory of Relativity were conceived when he was comparatively young. But there is no evidence, from the more than a million words of his writings that survive, that Newton’s mind declined in any way, and Einstein, too, remained as perceptive and sharp as ever to the end of his long life.

It may be that the large sample taken by the BMJ study for its survey is, indeed, a representative one, and that among average people, mental decline sets in during the forties. All I can say, as a historian, is that this does not seem to apply to those who get to the top.

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Previously:


01/08/13: Peering Into the Abyss
11/27/12: Men Blinded by Their Brains
10/24/12: The World's Most Unlovable Man
07/17/12: Make the Euro A Joking Matter
04/17/12: Silent witness
03/13/12: To pick an American President
12/13/11: American Culture Rides High
10/20/11: Who Can Lead Us To Safety?
08/23/11: Wanted: Global Role Models

07/05/11: Debt: A Moral Issue

06/08/11: The Moral Logic of Intervention
03/10/11: China's Secret Weakness: Is history repeating itself?
02/10/11: Assessing America's Foes
11/29/10: Wanted: Someone to Trust
10/19/10: Are Universities Worth It?
06/01/10: The English Language and Freedom
04/20/10: Listening and Telling the Truth
02/28/10: There Is No Keynesian Miracle
10/20/09: A Job Waiting for a Woman?
07/21/09: Obama Has to Be World Sheriff
03/24/09: Short works of genius that cheer up the writing profession
02/11/09: What would Darwin do?
01/27/09: Are you sophisticated? Here's how to find out
01/06/09: What did they talk about in the Ice Age? The weather, of course
09/09/08: Time, and our appalling ignorance of it
08/19/08: Eye-stopping glimpses of an exotic and forbidden world
06/30/08: How to fill a lecture hall, and how to empty it
06/23/08: Americans should count their blessings
05/20/08: Pajamas for Presidents
05/13/08: Literary woodlice boring needless holes in biographical bedposts
04/01/08: When markets come crashing down, send for the man with the big red nose
04/01/08: Quality for dinner. Pass the Fairy Liquid, Old Boy
03/25/08: In search of an American President with brains and guts
03/18/08: Technological warfare against mice won't work. Try cats
03/11/08: What is a genius? We use the word frequently but surely, to guard its meaning, we should bestow it seldom
03/03/08: Fiction as a crutch to get one through life
02/26/08: Impatience + Greed = Trouble
02/13/08: Shakespeare, Neo-Platonism and Princess Diana
02/07/08: Where Industry Has Failed Us
12/19/07: People who put their trust in human power delude themselves
12/12/07: What is aggression?
12/04/07: Pursuing success is not enough
11/07/07: Are famous writers accident-prone?
10/31/07: Courage needed to disarm Iran
09/20/07: Who Will Say ‘I Promise to Lay Off’?
07/24/07: Greed is safer than power-seeking
04/02/07: Benefactors must be hardheaded
03/07/07: American idealism and realpolitik
11/28/06: Space: Our ticket to survival
10/24/06: Envy is bad economics
10/11/06: Better to Borrow or Lend? Rethinking conventional wisdom
08/22/06: Don't practice legal terrorism
08/08/06: A summer rhapsody for a pedal-bike
08/03/06: Why is there no workable philosophy of music?
07/11/06: Historically speaking, energy crisis is America's opportunity
07/06/06: The misleading dimensions of persons and lives
06/06/06: First editions are not gold
05/23/06: A downright ugly man need never despair of attracting women, even pretty ones
04/25/06: Was Washington right about political parties?
04/12/06: Let's Have More Babies!
04/05/06: For the love of trains
03/29/06: Lincoln and the Compensation Culture
03/22/06: Bottle-beauties and the globalised blond beast
03/15/06: Europe's utopian hangover
03/08/06: Kindly write on only one side of the paper
02/28/06: Creators versus critics
02/21/06: The Rhino Principle

© 2009, Paul Johnson

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