One of the greatest fears of older people is
that we won't retain our mental health. The
mind, with its memories and understandings
and aspirations, is closely related to our
identity. Without a healthy mind, how can
we really say who we are?
As with our bodies, the key to mental health
is exercise. We exercise our minds by
continuing to learn and retain an interest in life.
I've been so grateful for my website, which
gives me a monthly deadline and the chance
to write and use my skills. I write four
related articles a month on a topic I find
interesting, and I hear back from enough
people to know that someone out there is
reading them. That's gratifying.
Frank and I work on the website together--I
do the writing, and he does the technical
work to maintain the site. He also catches
those pesky little errors that manage to creep
in no matter how many times I read over the
copy. In fact, both of our kids also read
most sites and make suggestions.
All my life, I've had trouble coming up with
specific words. That's one reason I like to
write, because I can skip a word if I can't
immediately come up with the right one and
return to fill it in later.
To help with recall, I work one or two
crossword puzzles a day, pushing myself to
complete each one faster than the last.
Frank does sudoku.
From time to time, I get requests to write
articles for publications or to edit someone
else's writing. All these opportunities help
me "keep a hand in" in my field, keep my
skills current and keep my mind engaged.
We have a large collection of books, so I get
a chance to read, usually keeping 2 or 3
books going at a time--one for devotion, one
for website research and one, usually fiction,
for bedtime reading.
I've recently begun a study of architecture, a
subject I never studied in school, but which
has always interested me.
Maintaining an interest in the world around us
is key to good mental health. I read the Los
Angeles Times and watch the BBC televised
news from England, NHK from Japan, and
the PBS NewsHour. That keeps me up on
news about America, Europe and Asia. I
also watch BBC and PBS fictional and
Often the topics of these studies overlap, as
in the recent discovery of the body of the
British king Richard III in a parking lot in
Leicester. We've been watching a television
series called "Shakespeare Uncovered,"
which features actors, directors and scholars
discussing Shakespeare's tragedies,
comedies and historical plays.
One of his plays, Richard III, established
Richard's reputation for cruelty, which may
be reevaluated because of the renewed
interest in him prompted by the discovery.
As Orwell wrote, "History is written by the
winners." It is also written by authors
seeking the approval of the winners, as with
Shakespeare's attempts to curry favor with
his monarch, Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth was a Tudor, granddaughter of the
Henry VII who defeated Richard III at
Bosworth Field, So Richard was the
competition, and Shakespeare had reason to
portray him as villainous. Politics hasn't
changed all that much in in 400 years.
I am planning a website on Shakespeare this
spring, which helps me keep abreast of my
major, English literature.
Whatever your interests are, keeping your
mind active will pay rich dividends in