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The Mature Mind

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The Mature Mind

The Positive Power of the Aging Brain

Basic Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Your brain improves with age: Think more clearly in your 80’s than you did in your 20’s.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Creativity exists only for the young. If by the age of 30 you have not written a novel, composed a symphony or invented something, you never will. Gene Cohen, an expert on aging, has one word for this notion: nonsense. The thinking and intellectual skills of the elderly can stay remarkably sharp into the most advanced old age. Numerous scientific studies indicate that the brains of the elderly, if not affected by illness or accident, work better in many ways than those of people in their 20s and 30s. Cohen explores these and related topics in his fascinating, fact-filled book about old people and their superbly functioning brains. getAbstract suggests that this groundbreaking work has much to offer readers of all ages.


Older Minds

An elderly couple was late for a dinner engagement, but a howling snowstorm meant no cabs were available to take them to their destination. After pondering the situation, the old man and his wife walked to a nearby pizza shop. Once inside, the old man said that he wanted to order a pizza for delivery to his destination address. “And I want you to deliver my wife and me with the pizza,” he said. This true story is emblematic of how the elderly can exhibit the most remarkably agile and resourceful thinking. It is often claimed that the elderly suffer from increasingly fuzzy thinking as they age. Many believe that they are not able to learn as readily as they used to, that the brain is incapable of generating new brain cells, and that intelligence simply reflects the number of neurons in the brain and the speed at which they work. These propositions are all false.

Of course, the aging process does affect the brain. But brains (minds) also gain numerous advantages as they age – accumulated knowledge and experience, greater wisdom and more profound insights. Scans show that older brains are far more complex than younger brains. Decades of learning develop enhanced...

About the Author

Gene Cohen, M.D., Ph.D. is an expert on aging, who heads George Washington University’s Center on Aging, Health and Humanities. Previously, he was director of the National Institute on Aging.

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