This interesting piece in The New York Times argues:
When athletes train consistently, recover smartly and get a little lucky, there’s no physiological reason their bodies should fall off a cliff in their 30s.
From following physiology literature and spending time around late-career elite athletes, I was already well aware that old dogs can both learn new tricks and slow the rate at which they lose old ones.
Another amazing story from The New York Times about the capacities of an aging athlete:
At the age of 105, the French amateur cyclist and world-record holder Robert Marchand is more aerobically fit than most 50-year-olds — and appears to be getting even fitter as he ages, according to a revelatory new study of his physiology.
You can read the research paper here.
Here is an interview with Dr. Charles Eugster, claimed to be the world’s fittest nonagenarian.
Here you can see him setting the world record in his age category for the 200 meter run;
For more information on older athletes check out the Silver Grey Sports Club.
Memory does become more difficulty with age. Memory decline is real and part of our lives. But we need not be complacent or defeatist.
We would not expect our older bodies to have the same athletic prowess as in our twenties. Yet despite our physical decline we still see the value in exercise. Exercise slows the pace of aging and is protective against many of the forces of mortality. Exercise will not give us unending youth, but it will improve the quality of our lives. The message of this blog is that the use of memory strategies and memory training can produce real benefits.
We can continue to learn and even improve our memories into old age, we can stave off or, at least moderate, many of the cognitive effects of the aging process. Just like physical exercise it will take a commitment to regular daily work, but the pay offs are high and it is worth the effort.
Lest you think this claim is hyperbole. Let me give you the example of Akira Haraguchi who at age 61 set the world record for memorizing digits of pi; he successfully recited 100,000 digits in 16.5 hours. The digit sequence of pi is random with no order or known pattern. Haraguchi says of himself: “I’m certainly no genius, I’m just an ordinary old guy.” In addition, Haraguchi believes that memory can actually improve with age:
“When you are young, you look at the sky and think it’s a nice day. Then you might think, “I might as well go driving.” When you grow older, however, you start observing the sunlight and its reflection on leaves. You develop the ability to imagine more, which helps you associate things . . . A whole new different way of memorizing things becomes available when you get older.”