Older Neurons: Hi-Ho Silver Lining

July 11, 2010

“Keeping active can increase your brain power.  Scientists have discovered that the human brain can improve with advancing years, dispelling the common belief that a person’s mental faculties peak in their twenties.”  Steven Swinford and Richard Kerbaj*

Even if some of us are  still not  sure what we’re going to do when we grow up, many of us more mature people are a bit apprehensive about the possible onset of the dreaded Mental Brewer’s Droop in its various manifestations, from minor short-term memory loss to the big A.  (Don’t forget that next week is Alzheimers Awareness and Appeal Week*).   

But it seems that while short-term memory may, in fact, decline with old age, long-term memory in most people remains unaffected and a person’s vocabulary, emotional intelligence and social skills may all get better.

In their recent article Brain Power Peaks In The Silver Set * Swinford and Kerbaj pulled together an interesting synthesis of recent studies which are part of a wider reappraisal of research into intelligence that began several years ago and which “has overturned the notion that intelligence peaks in the late twenties, prompting a long, slow and inevitable decline.”*

Older people are able to retain and hone an effective a range of skills. Until now some in the more mature ranks have been more concerned with dandruff than dentrites, but it appears that expert knowledge is stored in brain cells known as dendritic spines which  seem to be protected against ageing by a metaphorical silver lining.

When it comes to decision making, it also turns out that older people are more likely to be rational than young people because their brains are less susceptible to surges of dopamine, the feelgood hormone that can lead to impulsive reactions and dopey decisions. Despite slower brain speed, older people apparently solve problems more efficiently, drawing on “cognitive templates” of how they resolved similar problems in the past. The key is the process for problem solving not the content of the answer.

We know that top sports people are considered over the hill in their mid-30s but many of the most influential people in politics, business, law, literature and science are in their late fifties and sixties or older. Management gurus W. Edwards Deming and Peter Drucker were both still lecturing in their mid-90s.

Not only changing demographic patterns but also the loss of significant cognitive resources have led to demands for the retirement age to be lifted in some professions in the UK.

 New Zealand no longer has an obligatory retirement age, though age 65, when national superannuation kicks in, has become the target retirement age for many New Zealanders,  but an increasing number are staying on in the work force, not necessarily because they have to but because they want to. However, the older and more experienced often struggle to hold on to their present positions, let alone gain new ones.  

The ageist struggle starts more than two decades earlier for executive aspirants. Over the years there have been different  invisible barriers in respect to senior management jobs. First the class ceiling, which kept out those from the wrong side of the school tracks; then the glass ceiling, which kept out women. Now it’s the crass ceiling which favours the young and brash at the expense of the mature and experienced.  In the light of the findings above, this is waste management.

My view is that “retirement” should be spelt “retyrement” and it  should be about finding new ways of getting traction for one’s distilled experience and knowledge in a society which  is data and information rich but knowledge and wisdom poor.

We’ve heard a lot about Generations X and Y. Let’s now hear it for Generation S-the  65+years old silver set. Those of us in this age bracket are in our element: just as silver is precious, with the highest electrical conductivity of any metal,  the new research demonstrates that  silver-lined neurons are pretty good at conducting the impulses which are the functional units of the nervous system. With the right physical and mental exercise,  neurons can be kept in better nick at later life passages for more people than hitherto thought.

A sad minority have real problems. In 2008 about 40,000 Kiwis, or about 1% of the population, sufferered from dementia.  With demographic changes, this number is predicted to rise by 400% by mid century.

But pre-shroud every cloud  has a silver lining. Synonyms for silver include bright, lustrous, resplendent and sterling.  Most members of Generation S are capable of rendering sterling service if they keep their knowledge and skills polished.

Switched on Neuron

 Let’s go on the attack and claim back the feel good 60s song Hi-Ho Silver Lining back from English football clubs like Everton who, after England’s World Cup performance, deserve a song with a much whiter shade of pale and make it the anthem of a resplendent Silver Generation.

Hi-Ho Silver Lining*  (Scott English / Larry Weiss)
You're everywhere and nowhere, baby,
That's where you're at
Going down the bumpy hillside in your hippie hat
Flying across the country and getting fat
Saying everything is groovy
When your tires are flat     
And it's hi-ho silver lining
Anywhere you go now, baby
I see your sun is shining but I will make a fuss
Though it's obvious
Flies are in your pea soup, baby  
They're waving at me
Anything you want is yours now,
Only nothing's for free
Life's a-gonna get you someday,
Just wait and see
So put up your beach umbrella
While you're watching TV
And it's hi-ho silver lining
Anywhere you go, well, baby
I see your sun is shining but I will make a fuss
Though it's obvious

Brain power peaks in the silver set Steven Swinford and Richard Kerbaj  Sunday Times  27 June 2010 www.alzheimers.org.nz   For information and to donate
http://themindperspective.files.wordpress.com     Neuron visual etc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DD7KkJopku8  Hi-Ho Silver Lining- first released as a single in March 1967 by The Attack and a few days later by Jeff Beck  Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYPoRFRhVzE&feature=related  -Everton Fans at  Wembley Singing Hi-Ho Silver Lining  Vid
Send “Hi Ho Silver Lining” Ringtone to your Cell

 #Lyall Lukey11 July 2010
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other blog

Allan Hubbard: Ancient History?

July 7, 2010

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone:
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none. 
1805 version

No matter how well stocked or shipshape  their financial larder in these uncertain times, the treatment of Allan and Margaret Hubbard is a bone of contention.

Allan Hubbard was pretty good at making hay while the sun shone, but by all accounts he would have been the last person to adopt a dog in the manger attitude to anyone when the financial skies clouded over. With his eclectic portfolio of investments, including  significant interests in dairying,  he was regarded as milk solid as. 

It’s now modern history that statutory managers are managing the financial affairs of the Hubbards and their investment company Aorangi Securities while they investigate allegations of complex fraud. Allan Hubbard was banned from his office of 50 years, which may have been necessary, but must have been dreadfully hurtful.

Has the Serious Fraud Office  closed this stable door because other horses elsewhere have bolted?  Other untouched Augean stables seem much more likely candidates for an overdue mucking out of accumulated financial ordure, but this Herculean task has seemed beyond the powers of the SFO, though lame duck Securities Commission CEO Jane Diplock  is  keen to see New Zealand securities regulations and enforcement strengthened.

To add to the intrigue, Jonathan Botherway, the brother of  Simon Botherway, annointed head of the new super regulator the Financial Markets Authority and also a Securities Commission member, had a spot of bother with South Canterbury Finance in July 2009, the corporate name most associated with Alan Hubbard, though he no longer has a directorial role, being now ‘president for life’ of SCF.

Jane Diplock has dismissed allegations of a conflict of interest in the decision by the Securities Commission to investigate the Hubbards, with the comment that the situation from which the allegation of conflict arose happened last year 2009 and is therefore “ancient history”. On this timescale 1999 must be pre-historic and Allan Hubbard Methuselah.

Whatever the state of the paperwork and the labyrinthine transactions involved, there is still plenty of support-and even more sympathy-for Allan Hubbard in Timaru, Canterbury and further afield than his namesake Dick managed in Auckland when cereal killer John Banks got stuck into him at the last local body elections.

A former Rover Scout in Dunedin and Temuka, now in his ninth decade, Mr Hubbard is generally regarded as still an all round good scout: both a savvy businessman and a generous philanthropist. He and his wife have played a big role in the wider community for decades in a modest way, as evinced by the number of well-wishers standing by their man*, especially in Timaru, by the sixties Volkswagen he still drives and the modest Timaru suburban house the Hubbards still occupy. Not for them the continuing over conspicuous over consumption of some company directors after their investors have been shut out.

If the VW was the people’s car, the major  finance company with which Allan Hubbard is associated was regarded as the ideal people’s  investment vehicle.

According to the NBR* in June this year Allan Hubbard divested many personal investments into charitable trusts. The Hubbards’ personal wealth had already “shrunk considerably” over the previous 12 months as they propped up South Canterbury finance. SCF had to work hard to qualify for the government deposit guarantee and the support of the Hubbards was crucial to its qualifying.

The financial dominoes are lined up ominously. Alan Hubbard’s long and deep particularly South Island relationships have implications for organizations and individuals well beyond SFC. The SFO has not been noted for the speedy resolution of some  enquiries  but speed is essential in this case.  

There is a lot weighing in the balance for a man who has shied away from publicity throughout his long life and is now in the incandescent glare of media searchlights in his twilight years. Nothing will ever be the same again. The financial genie is out of the bottle, no matter how much he is a financial genius and no matter what transgressions, if any, may have occurred. With it has gone some hard earned credibility, the currency of investment confidence.

Most will sincerely hope that the Hubbard cupboard is neither bare nor devoid of appropriate documentation. Even if it turns out that, like most of us, he has feet of clay, many will still hold that Allan Hubbard should have been subject to statuary not statutory management and that the man deserves his own plinth.  He’d be too modest to accept it, or the rich dainties of the 1805 version:

This wonderful dog
Was Dame Hubbard’s delight,
He could read, he could dance,
He could sing, he could write;
She gave him rich dainties
Whenever he fed,
And erected this monument
When he was dead.

 SFO targets Allan Hubbard | The National Business Review – New
Bernard Hickey talks about the SFO probe into Allan Hubbard  Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ppvBNDVm2w&feature=related Vid Timelapse footage of the clouds swirling around Aorangi/Aoraki/ Mt.Cook
Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around the World  Vid  The most moving musical creation I have seen in years.” Gord Miller

#Lyall Lukey 7 July 2010
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other blog
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz