Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Maryl relearns: How to Compute, easy as Apple pie

I finally made the change. After months and months of ruminating over whether to buy a new PC or switch to a MacBook Pro with the new retina display and solidstate hard drive, I bought an Apple. Having a second life is all about making transformations – big and small. Change starts to become more difficult as we move into and through our 20s and beyond. The good news is that of the Big Five Personality Categories, openness, in particular to new experiences, seems to pick up again about age 60 according to a Scientific American report.

Part of the my hesitation aside from the price was the relearning I would have to do as the PC and Mac desktop and keyboard commands are quite different. (I already miss the forward delete key but love the zoom effect when shrinking a window.) Andrew Cohen, Founder of Brainscape, blogged about his frustrations in making the switch and compared it to his experience with learning a new language. “It was as if I had a distinct PC ‘accent’ when trying to speak Mac.” 

Both activities stimulate the brain and keep it healthy by building up our “brain reserve”. I first learned of this when writing about the artist Willem deKoonig and how he was able to continue painting even as Alzheimer’s Disease was setting in. Brain reserve is thought to delay the onset of dementia. A report in the Neuropsychologia Journal stated that there are five lifestyle activities that can strengthen one’s brain reserve: 

1) Learning a second language
2) Computerized Brain Exercises
3) Puzzles
4) Musical instrument playing
5) Reading and writing

Further research shows that bilingual and musical brains are “more resistant to the effects of cognitive decline” and better at staying focused and avoiding distractions. Signs of dementia were delayed by four years on average. It’s a start. One of the members of my entrepreneur group confessed she had recently purchased a Rosetta Stone program for Spanish and a guitar, although the later was collecting a bit of dust just now. Our friend Carla is learning to play Bach on the piano and Louisa is learning to speak Arabic. Another one of my entrepreneur friends and a world traveller has a business plan for a travel company for second lifers interested in learning a foreign language. Study Travel and STA Travel are already offering these types of programs and have linked them with adventure vacations and voluntourism

How do you say "Giddyup" in Arabic?

Scientists are also studying neuroplasticity today and finding out that the brain is extremely malleable and modifiable throughout life. It continually changes and that accounts for new learning. So I start my “One To One” Apple training next week and I’ve dusted off my Rosetta Stone program for French and I’ll keep writing for this blog. That’s three out of the five lifestyle activities that increase brain reserve and plasticity. What are you doing to change your lives?

Opening image:  John Derian art


  1. Love this post! Practical and informative. It's hard enough to step out of our comfort zones in this culture when we're younger; sometimes we fear looking foolish as we get older, trying new things, and anticipating some struggle.

    As for the Mac thing, I've been watching a midlife friend make the switch, and I've been astonished at how quickly he's doing it after "speaking PC" for 2 decades. But he's open to learning - extremely open - and unselfconscious about it.

    I think that matters enormously. Diving in, not focusing on the difficulties or what anyone else will think, and looking at what's to be gained and the pleasures of new capabilities.

    Now... let me go dig out my Russian books and brush up...

    1. Let's face it, learning a new computer operating system is a cakewalk compared to a new language especially one with a different alphabet! I'm impressed. My daughter was born in Russia and tried to relearn the language. That's on hold for now. I'll stick with French. Some of the vocabulary and grammar is still in my brain....somewhere!

  2. I just discovered you from Tish Jett's Blog, and I'm so glad she linked all of us over to you!

    I'm "over 60", and am increasing my brain reserve by learning textile and surface design using Photoshop and Illustrator's latest editions. My head feels pretty plastic by 5:00 every day...

    1. Thanks Linda. I know that heady feeling. I have the drive to keep going at day's end but my brain just gets tired. Does that make sense? I'm impressed with learning Photoshop. That's next on my list and them I want to edit videos. No shortage of new things to learn....

  3. I also just found you from Tish Jett's blog!!

    My computer is on its last legs and while I use an iPad and iPhone I'm a bit skeptical about going to a MacBook Pro.
    I've challenged myself to learn new things for the past several years and it feels wonder why the hesitation on this.
    I should just dive in head first and go for it.

    What a great post!! Thanks

    1. Perhaps like me part of your hesitation is the price and how obnoxious people can get about their Apple my daughter for one. As an advertising professional, I find Apple's marketing to be elitist and not as customer focused as I would like. But I wanted to give it a try and I have no buyer's remorse. Would I be as productive and satisfied if I had bought another PC? Probably but would have still been curious about owning a Mac. Now I know. Thanks.

  4. Well, me too. I found you from Tish Jett's blog. I loved this post and look forward to reading this blog! I published my first novel at the age of 56 and am now on my fourth book- so I am all for the second life!

    1. Your fourth book...that's got to equal a lot of brain reserve. I'm contemplating a film script myself. Did you self publish? Let us know the titles. Thanks.

  5. Loved this post Maryl.
    You are so right!

    I find that taking on a new challenge makes me happier
    and makes me feel good about myself.
    An additional bonus!!!


    1. Hi Shubha, yes achievement and self-satisfaction are part of it and they do make you feel good. Each day is like a new lesson plan. And you have your art which can take your mind in all kinds of places too.

  6. Ich bin sehr gl├╝cklich, dass du lernst MAC.

    I just stopped by to let you know that your 8-year old cousin once removed gracefully moves from MAC at school to PC at home. She puts me to shame.

    Now I've got to get back to my crossword puzzle so that I'll still have time to play my guitar before I go to bed.


    1. You still remember your German? Wow, I'm impressed. Your grandmother would be too. You're covering most of the lifestyle activities. Have you thought about writing your autobiography? It would be very entertaining!!