When you think of nuns, most people will picture an old woman in a habit. What most people don’t know is that nuns offer clues to physical and mental fitness and longevity. In a recent study conducted on nuns, it has been found that mental fitness can actually prolong life. Nuns typically live healthy, structured lives without alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. In the study, the depth of knowledge and ideas as well as the ability to articulate were used as measures of intelligence. Nuns, with their daily recitals of religious scriptures have evolved a technique with the same beneficial same effect to the brain, as a good memory training system or technique. Years of leading a structured lifestyle devoted to religious study have helped them enhanced their study skills and concentration to a very high level.
The result shows that most talented nuns reached an average age of 88.5 years, while the others only reached 81 years. With the less intelligent sisters, post-mortem brain examinations showed that indications of Alzheimer’s disease were 10 times more frequent. This is just one study to conclude that the more mentally active you are, the less likely you will have Alzheimer’s disease.
In Canada, there has been some research which shows similar results. It has been shown that the better educated are four times less likely to be struck by cerebral atrophy than uneducated citizens. It is a natural law that whatever is not used often will decline slowly and can only be revived with some difficulties.
Many older folks, despite having less physical and mental attributes, have been very successful in being active and confident. They are satisfied with what they have and when they make plans, they see to it that they are accomplished.
Studies have shown that the secret to their confident outlook in life is simple. They do not look back into the past and rue what might have been or could have been. Instead they look forward to what is possible ahead of them. They constantly renew themselves. Learning new things, creating new ideas for personal growth, or making new friends. The act of learning makes their memory stronger and helps them minimise memory loss, a natural outcome of the aging process. Many old people have been known to volunteer their time; Mary for example is a 70 year old Canadian woman living in Ontario who volunteers to read to young children twice a week in the community library. During her free time, she is constantly trying out new recipes and sharing them with friends and neighbours.
The constant physical and mental activities are what keeps Mary young at her age and helps train her memory, making it stronger everyday. In fact neighbours fondly call her the “Muffin Mary” and are quite happy to try out Mary’s bakes every now and then. The act of engaging the community gives many older folks a sense of belonging and self-worth and helps them stay young both mentally and physically.
Of course, not all older people radiate such optimism and perhaps only a minority would say that they are really happy. However a positive view of the world is an important component for happiness and satisfaction in life. It is not so much a question of prolonging our life span but of filling the years with life.
People who remain mentally active tend to show little signs of mental ageing. Besides that, there is a rollover effect and mentally active old people tend to be happier. So no matter what your age is, make it a life-long habit to constantly learn new things and give to your community. You will be pleasantly surprised how much you receive back in terms of quality of life.