Take Aways – Daniel Levitin, Successful Aging

This post summarizes the main take away points for me from a talk given by David Levitin, author of Successful Aging, given at the Commonwealth Club on February 5, 2020 (Link). Also sponsored by the Buck Institute on Aging in Novato, CA whose mission is to live better, longer.

  1. A key to successful aging is to identify those things that are important to you (at any age) and then make time for them.
  2. Curiosity is a big predictor of life satisfaction at any age. Curiosity is a personality trait. Your genetics give you a propensity for certain personality traits but you can change these at any age through religion, meditation, athletics, disease, etc. (See the example of Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins)
  3. Dopamine is part of the brains’ reward circuitry that rewards you for exploring your environment, and may fuel curiosity. You begin to lose your dopamine production every decade after 50. [This explains my lack of motivation at times, as Parkinson’s is a dopamine production problem.]
  4. We didn’t evolve to be 80 years old. Natural selection has not caught up with our living longer, so we don’t know what our limits are or what we can become. 
  5. There are a lot of myths about aging that aren’t true. Many of these myths are the stories we tell ourselves. For example, when you’re 20 and you misplace your keys you tell yourself you have too many things on your plate. When you’re 80, you tell yourself that you’re losing your mind.
  6. The most important aging factor is this: moving around, outside.
  7. It’s important not to allow your insulin levels to spike too often. Remember also that eating should be fun. Dr. Levitin eats a spoonful of ice cream every week, but usually not more than one because of the law of diminishing returns.

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