Fifty years ago, when I was a young boy, Grandpa and Grandma were really old. In fact, they were in their early 70s. I remember, Grandma was so old she use to refer to the car as “the machine.” (Makes me wonder if kids today look at me funny if I refer to their PlayStations and Gameboys as computers.)
Back in the 1960s, if you lived into your 70s you’d lived a “long, full life.” If you made it into your 80s, that was amazing. But to expect to live into your 90s, or even 100 and beyond, was just unthinkable. But that was then. Go to a funeral today in which the departed died at 75, you think, “What happened?”
Seniors today are a lot like the Energizer Bunny. They just “keep going and going and going.” Some seniors today are still working into their 90s, still driving their own car, living independently with no intention of slowing down. Many Rafu Shimpo readers have celebrated their 100th birthday and many more of you are planning to in the not too distant future.
In fact, if your going for the record, you’ll probably want to know that the oldest person (unambiguously documented) lived to be 122 years, 164 days, i.e., Jeanne Calment of France (1875-1997). However, the longest undisputed lifespan for a male is that of Jiroemon Kimura of Japan (1897-2013), who died at age 116 years, 54 days.
Since Kimura’s death on June 12, 2013, Misao Okawa, also of Japan, born March 5, 1898, is the oldest **living** person at 115 years (source: Wikipedia.com). Okawa has also been the oldest living woman since the death of 115-year-old Koto Okubo of Japan on Jan. 12, 2013.
“But Judd,” you might say, “what good is living so long if you have no quality of life?” I agree, if I’m ever hooked up to a machine, with no mental awareness, staring at the ceiling and drooling on myself, “Please, pull the plug.” That’s why I am determined to do whatever I can to keep my mind sharp and my body young.
You may remember a series of articles I wrote from a book called “The Longevity Bible” by Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Center on Aging. The book contained “8 Essential Strategies,” the first was to “Sharpen Your Mind,” in which he encourages us to boost our brainpower every day:
“According to the scientific evidence, whenever we push ourselves to solve problems in a new way, we may be strengthening the connections between our brain cells. Each brain cell has dendrites. These minute extensions — similar to branches of a tree — pass information along from brain cell to brain cell. Without use, our dendrites can atrophy or shrink; but when we exercise them in new and creative ways, their connections remain active, passing new information along. Basically, any conscious effort to exercise your brain can potentially create new brain cells connections. And, remarkably, new dendrites can still be created even if old ones have already died.”
As Mrs. Matsunaga and I are approaching 60, I have been looking for new ways for us to “exercise” our brains. Recently, I came across a computer program that seems to do everything that Dr. Small is advocating. It’s called Lumosity, a simple online tool to allow anyone to achieve their full potential.
Over 40 million people already use Lumosity.com. Perhaps you’re one of them. These users join Lumosity to achieve big goals, make daily life easier, and just feel a little brighter. And after Lumosity training, they often report positive results — though no two experiences are the same.
According to their website, Lumosity is the Web’s most popular brain training program: “Lumosity’s groundbreaking program is based on extensive research in the field of neuroplasticity.” Scientists once believed that mental ability was fixed after childhood. But over the last few decades, neuroscientists have discovered that adults’ brains are constantly changing – growing new neurons and connections – in a process known as neuroplasticity.
Lumosity takes advantage of the brain’s innate neuroplasticity to help shape it into a more effective, powerful organ. Instead of teaching specific skills that may only be useful in specific areas, Lumosity targets core cognitive processes that underlie performance in many different areas. These processes include memory, attention and other abilities that are critical in the real world.
Each brain is unique, and everyone has different goals. Lumosity understands this and uses a patent-pending technology to combine the powerful database of the Human Cognition Project with sophisticated adaptive training algorithms to create a training program that’s right for each individual.
Personalized training programs are designed to help you achieve your goals. Additionally, each exercise adapts to your skill level, driving the maximum amount of benefit for each day of training. The more you tell Lumosity about your priorities, the more they can customize the training for you.
You can sign up for a free trial, pay by the month, for a year, or a lifetime. Personally, I signed up for a lifetime. I believe it was under $300. However, I did read on some reviews that Apple computers may not be compatible to run the games on Lumosity. Get your resident teenager to help you.
If you’re interested in keeping your mind sharp, and already have a computer, you may want to give it a try at Lumosity.com If you do not already have a computer, I am pretty sure that the program will work on a laptop or even an iPad. A strong brain is certainly worth the investment.
“But Judd, I don’t know how to operate a computer.” No problem, there are thousands of other seniors who don’t know either, but they are taking lessons at the local senior center. Once you learn, you’ll find a tremendous amount of websites offering things you never knew existed, such as online casinos.
“Say what? Online casinos?” That’s right. If you can’t make it to Vegas any longer, you can still play slot machines online. For example, one elderly lady client of mine loves to play video poker. “That’s great,” I said. “You’re keeping your mind sharp since you need to know the different odds and percentages for certain cards, and you’re having fun too.”
Not only can you play online video poker machines, but there is online blackjack, online roulette, online craps and a host of other online casino games. Believe it or not, there are even online poker rooms where you actually play against other players, i.e., not against a machine, for real money!!!
In conclusion, it really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something to exercise your brain daily. Just think, in just 10 short years, the appearance of centenarians and super-centenarians (110+) will be commonplace at many functions in the Japanese American community.
Judd Matsunaga, Esq., is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Matsunaga & Associates, specializing in estate/Medi-Cal planning, probate, personal injury and real estate law. With offices in Torrance, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena Fountain Valley, he can be reached at (800) 411-0546. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.