Older and Wiser

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Bob Gifford, D.Ed., 79, was recruited into a volunteer program after retiring from 27 years with the county school system. He joined a group of enterprising people who helped other seniors prepare their income-tax returns in a program jointly sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the local Department of Aging. Eventually, Bob became the countywide coordinator of the program. He was busy recruiting volunteers, training them, managing paperwork, and reporting to the sponsoring organizations. Bob says that he found the work as challenging as his assignments in the workforce. The frequent changes in tax laws and the unique tax-related situations of many of the seniors kept him learning new things.

Bob spends the rest of the year working on other community projects. So much so that the local elementary school created a fitness trail and dedicated it in the names of Bob and his wife Rita. Now to keep up with two active grandchildren who live several states away, Bob is learning to use a computer. He quips, "Surely e-mail is only the tip of our learning curve as we get acquainted with the full potential of cyberspace."

Because most IQ tests measure your linguistic, mathematical, spatial, and logical deduction capabilities, start exercising those areas of your brain. If you don't want to take a formal class, use some word puzzle books, increase your vocabulary, start writing your life story, do logic puzzles, draw, paint, brush up on your math skills. Increase your intelligence. Increase the quality of your life.


Our culture acknowledges equal opportunity for both sexes. However, the sexes are not equal. Some physical differences show up even before we are born. Gender differences are caused by the effects of both genes and hormones on the developing fetus. (See Chapter 2 for more details regarding the development of the prenatal child.) Genes alone do not determine the sex of a child. Appropriate hormonal levels must be present to ensure the proper growth of the fetus. These levels affect the internal wiring of the brain. For example, research indicates that individuals may have the chromosomes of a male, but without the necessary bathing of the fetus with male hormones at each of three critical periods during gestation, the child may appear physically female or may not be as traditionally masculine as expected.9

From the time of birth, males and females exhibit different preferences and abilities. In general, men see better in bright light, and women see better in the dark. Women are more sensitive to changes in pitch. As an example, when a woman begins to be annoyed, most of the other women in the room will know this immediately by the tone of her voice. However, the majority of men will not be aware of her annoyance until the change in pitch is much more pronounced. It is not that they are not paying attention or ignoring the annoyed woman's signals; they just do not detect the slight variations as well as women do. The following table lists a few of the other common differences.10



See in a narrow field

Greater peripheral vision

Greater depth perception

Less depth perception

More sensitive to saltiness

More sensitive to sweets

Greater preference for sweets

Better hand-eye coordination

Better at reading facial features

Better at spatial abilities, such

Prefer to turn a map so that it is

as constructing 3D objects from

oriented in the same direction as

a flat design

they are traveling

Give directions using north,

Give directions using visual cues,

south, etc.

such as "turn right, there'll be a

white house on the corner"

Better at abstract mathematical

Better at algebraic processes

theories and relationships (better

such as adding, dividing, etc.

at story problems)

More prone to verbal difficulties;

Better verbal abilities

almost all people who stutter

are male

4 out of 5 dyslexics are male

Learn to read and write faster

Find it easier to master foreign


These differences in preferential skills and abilities begin to be noticeable soon after birth and continue into adulthood. These preferences affect our abilities to notice details and to communicate in our personal and professional lives; they even affect the strategies we use to achieve success in our choice of goals. These differences between the sexes do not make one sex better than the other. We are different and complement each other. As the French say, "Viva la difference!"


Were you aware of the many factors affecting your mental abilities? Let's take a few moments to review your lifestyle and preferences.

Circadian Rhythms

What time of day do you feel your energy. level is highest? Color in the times of day and night that you are most energized. Use the clocks shown.


Color in the times of day and night that you have the least energy. Use the following clocks.


Note these times. Perhaps you can reschedule activities that require high levels of mental capability to those times.


Choose from the following list those items that are most like you.

1. _I am not distracted very easily. When I concen trate, it's hard to interrupt me.

2. _Some noises interrupt my train of thought, such as these:_

3. _I am easily distracted. I can do the following to minimize distractions while I'm trying to think:

When attempting to perform a task or remember a piece of information, distractions or background noise may make you forget where you were or what you were trying to remember. Start at the beginning and try again. Try to notice whether you forget what you're doing with or without distractions present. Be confident. It may not be memory lapses. Perhaps you simply got distracted from the task at hand.


Notice what type of information you are concerned about forgetting. Be specific about what's bothering you. For example, "Have I always been forgetful about meeting times or places? Names? Messages?"

List a few problem areas

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