SPECIAL FROM Next Avenue
By Donna Sapolin
Many of my Facebook friends have been chatting about a great roundup of TED Talks that Mashable posted back in July. Those exchanges prompted me to shape this piece.
I’m a TED addict and, over the years, along with legions of others around the world, have been deeply inspired by the wisdom of various speakers. I’ve also been blessed to write about and converse with some of them.
While most TED talks are enlightening, not all of them address the specific concerns of boomers — the issues that Next Avenue deals with every day. So I decided to dive deep into the overwhelming pool of TED content to find the ones that deliver on that score.
These talks may not change your life, but I guarantee they will intrigue you, open your eyes and make you think differently.
Here are my favorite boomer-to-boomer presentations, which I culled from the TED site.
1. Potent ways boomer parents can encourage their twentysomething kids
Clinical psychologist Meg Jay has a bold message for twentysomethings: Contrary to popular belief, your 20s are not a throwaway decade. In this provocative talk, Jay says that just because marriage, work and kids are happening later in life, doesn’t mean you can’t start planning now. She gives three pieces of advice for how twentysomethings can reclaim adulthood in the defining decade of their lives.
2. A reminder that music and a playful spirit are the keys to joy — and we all hold them
In this fun, three-minute performance from the World Science Festival, musician Bobby McFerrin uses the pentatonic scale to reveal one surprising result of the way our brains are wired.
Listening to Bobby McFerrin sing may be hazardous to your preconceptions. Side effects may include unparalleled joy, a new perspective on creativity, rejection of the predictable and a sudden, irreversible urge to lead a more spontaneous existence.
3. Insight into what we spend about one-third of our lives doing and why it’s the best medicine there is
Russell Foster posits that the eye has two jobs: creating vision, but also managing our perception of light and dark, providing the clues that our circadian rhythms need to regulate sleep-wake cycles.
The research on light perception hits home as we age — faced with fading vision, we also risk disrupted sleep cycles, which have very serious consequences, including lack of concentration, depression and cognitive decline. The more we learn about how our eyes and bodies create our sleep cycles, the more seriously we can begin to take sleep as a therapy.
4. A better understanding of the stunning capacities we possess that fly in the face of our increasing vulnerabilities
One morning, a blood vessel in Jill Bolte Taylor's brain exploded. As a brain scientist, she realized she had a ringside seat to her own stroke. She watched as her brain functions shut down one by one: motion, speech, memory, self-awareness ...
Amazed to find herself alive, Taylor spent eight years recovering her ability to think, walk and talk. She has become a spokesperson for stroke recovery and for the possibility of coming back from brain injury stronger than before. In her case, although the stroke damaged the left side of her brain, her recovery unleashed a torrent of creative energy from her right.
5. How we can get the collaborative support we’re going to need at work and at home as the aging population explodes
Scaremongers play on the idea that robots will simply replace people on the job. In fact, they can become our essential collaborators, freeing us up to spend time on less mundane and mechanical challenges. Rodney Brooks points out how valuable this could be as the number of working-age adults drops and the number of retirees swells. He introduces us to Baxter, the robot with eyes that move and arms that react to touch, which could work alongside an aging population — and learn to help them at home, too.
6. Insights into aging in place, big demographic shifts and creating a more environmentally sustainable way forward
Award-winning architect Ellen Dunham-Jones teaches at the Georgia Institute of Technology and is a board member of the Congress for the New Urbanism. She shows how design impacts some of the most pressing issues of our times — reducing our ecological footprint and energy consumption while improving our health and communities and providing living options for all ages.
7. A look at our capacity to realize our dreams at any stage of life
Benjamin Zander, a leading interpreter of Mahler and Beethoven, has two infectious passions: classical music and helping us all realize our untapped love for it — and by extension, our untapped love for all new possibilities, new experiences, new connections.
8. Why you can decide to be happy, whatever your circumstances
Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.
9. A bright light cast on a common sentiment that’s never too late to deal with
Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has spent the past 10 years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. She poses these questions: How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection we need to recognize we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?
10. A newly appropriate metaphor for age that captures what it means to be human
Within this generation, an extra 30 years have been added to our life expectancy -- and these years aren’t just a footnote or a pathology. In this talk, Jane Fonda asks how we can think about this new phase of our lives.
11. The possibility of taking on new challenges on a consistent basis (the speaker’s not yet 50, but he sure makes a good point for those of us who are)
Is there something you've always meant to do, wanted to do, but just ... haven't? Matt Cutts, an engineer at Google, suggests: Try it for 30 days. This short, lighthearted talk offers a neat way to think about setting and achieving goals.
More On Next Avenue
Earlier on HuffPost50:
Health was "extremely important" to happiness for 73 percent of respondents. People in "good or excellent" health are three times more likely to report being "very" happy. Interestingly, what may matter most is how healthy you <em>think</em> you are: The AARP found that the percentage of people reporting good health is relatively stable over the 35-80 age range, varying only seven percentage points. That's despite the fact that objectively, older people are in fact not as healthy: The number of people who report they are suffering two or more medical conditions increased 400 percent over the 35-80 age range. (People may be comparing their health to their peers who are in worse shape.)
Some 68 percent of respondents called relationships "extremely important" to happiness. Some 72 percent of people who were married or in a relationship called themselves "very happy" or "pretty happy" -- compared to 60 percent of singles. AARP asked respondents to rank the importance of certain activities to happiness, and many of those scoring at the top were relationship-related: 72 percent said "kissing or hugging someone you love"; 72 percent said "watching your children, grandchildren or close relative succeed in what they want to do"; 69 percent said "spending time with your family and friends such as a meal or social gathering'; and 64 percent said "experiencing a special moment with a child." However, relationships did have to be real: "connecting with friends or family on a social media site like Facebook" came in 37th out of 38 activities in contributing to happiness.
Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents said pleasure was "extremely important" to happiness. Among the simple pleasures that were most important to the happiness of people 50 to 80: enjoying natural beauty like a sunset or ocean (64 percent); having someone do something nice for you unexpectedly (56 percent); practicing religious or spiritual faith (50 percent); making progress on personal goals (47%); and being absorbed in a favorite hobby or interest (42 percent).
Four in ten of those surveyed called accomplishment "extremely important" to happiness.
Meaning And Engagement
Meaning and engagement were considered "extremely important" to happiness among 38 and 37 percent of respondents, respectively.
Some 31 percent of respondents said money was "extremely important" to happiness. Money was slightly more important to people who earned $25,000 or less. As psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman has noted, <a href="http://www.moneyandhappiness.com/blog/?p=1053" target="_hplink">beyond a household income of $75,000, experienced well-being no longer increases</a>, although people's judgment of how satisfied they are with their lives does continue to increase. At the same time, severe poverty amplifies life's misfortunes, such as illness or divorce. The AARP study found similar results: Income and happiness were positively correlated; when comparing the percentage of those "Very Happy" by income ranges, the slope increases up to the $75,000 mark, then continued to rise even more dramatically. Asked how they would spend $100 on something to increase happiness, most respondents said they would spend it on their family or going out to dinner. This correlates with findings that show <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090207150518.htm" target="_hplink">buying experiences makes people happier than buying things</a>.
A Sense Of Control Over Happiness
People who feel they are in control of their happiness report that they are 2.5 times happier than those who believe happiness is out of their control. A sense of control is linked to higher income, higher education, good health and not experiencing a major life event in the past year. This finding also mirrors decades of research suggesting <a href="http://moneyandhappiness.com/get_happy.htm" target="_hplink">autonomy -- the feeling that your actions are self-chosen and self-endorsed</a> -- is a core psychological need. Studies have found people who lack a sense of control -- prisoners, nursing home residents, people living under totalitarian governments -- suffer lower morale and poor health, according to David Myers, a professor at Hope College in Michigan and author of "The Pursuit of Happiness." Interestingly, a sense of control over one's happiness rises with age -- with 69 percent of people age 75 to 80 feeling they have control over their happiness, versus about half of people age 40 to 54. It may be that with the wisdom of the years, people recognize that happiness is a choice.
Spending time with a pet can be a substantial way to contribute to one's happiness, the survey found, especially for older women: 81 percent of women age 66 to 80 who own pets said spending time with them contributes "a lot" to personal happiness. It was also important to two-thirds of singles.