Huffpost Fifty
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Francine Toder, Ph.D. Headshot

Arianna Huffington's Commencement Speech Also Perfect for Boomers

Posted: Updated:

While intended for Smith College graduates, Arianna Huffington's wise words to graduates of Smith College struck me as similar to the advice I give Vintage Years folks -- those over 55.

Both kinds of seniors

She advised the graduating class that, "it's time for a third metric, beyond money and power -- one founded on well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder and to give back," but I think her words have much broader appeal.

While generations apart, us sixty-somethings get this idea perhaps even better than those in the their twenties. Our search at this later life stage is not for fame and fortune, but for activities that keep us curious, spark passion and that express wisdom gathered over a lifetime -- all while supercharging our brain and psyche. At least, that's what I wanted when I set out to research and write my recent book.

What excites the brain?

The optimization of this incredibly rich life stage, which I call The Vintage Years, occurs through the choices we make. Whatever we do with our time going forward needs to include three elements that comprise the best tonic I've discovered for stimulating the aging brain:

• Newness or Novelty
• Complexity
• Problem solving

You need to work your brain vigorously to keep those neurons firing optimally. And whatever you do, even If you already have a favorite activity like playing bridge, golf or knitting, make sure you shake it up a bit by varying the process so that the newness box gets checked. Complexity and problem solving work to deepen the challenge that increases brain activity.

Why the fine arts?

When your old pastimes need refreshing or you're searching for a new interest, what's high on the list of brain teasers? The fine arts -- writing, playing a musical instrument, or visual expressions like painting, sculpting and ceramics, rank highest as brain sharpening tools because they check all the boxes for brain stimulation while being intensely satisfying and evocative. Learning one or more after 60 is not only possible, it's the ideal time! Finally, The Vintage Years is a time in life to explore, satisfy curiosity, create more meaning, and focus intensely in ways that please your brain enormously.

Huffington ends her speech with these prophetic words: "So find your place to stand -- your place of wisdom and peace and strength." I'd say she was also speaking to us, because wisdom is most abundant later in life.