The taxi arrived. I turned off the garden hose and grabbed my bags. Two hours into my bus trip, I stiffened in alarm. Did I close the front door? It was another two hours before I reached a phone. It was the middle of a working day and no-one would be able to reassure me for another four hours – at least. It was an anxious wait. Yes, the door was wide open. Thankfully, no harm done.
I wish I could say it was an aberration, a one off. I wish I could say I learnt my lesson and it never happened again. I’m supposed to have quite a sharp mind, and it serves me well in many situations. But lack of attention could be my downfall as I age.
A recent study of ‘super agers’ found that their anterior cingulate was healthier than that of the average 80 year old. This bit of our spongy stuff is important for attention. Attention supports memory and thinking skills.
Brains have to be nurtured and trained, and whatever we do today will contribute to how our brains work tomorrow. The internet, it is claimed by many, reduces our attention span. Blogs and social media sites aren’t helping. We scan for interest. We read a bit here, a bit there. We flit about.
To improve our attention span requires us to regularly focus intently on just one thing for a decent period of time. Simple. Huh?
Now, an additional problem: On the same day I find out about super agers, I’m told that sitting for long periods has serious health implications. The suggested answer was to get up and walk, even stroll if that’s as fast as you can go, for 2 minutes out of every 20.
So, I guess this means my attention span can never be longer than 20 minutes. I wonder if that will be long enough?
Paul, M. “Secrets of Superager Brains: Elderly SuperAgers have brains that look and act decades younger than their age”, published by Northwestern University News, 17 August 2012, at http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2012/08/superager-brains.html
Taylor, A. “Sitting is Deadly”, broadcast on ABC’s “Catalyst” on 16 August 2012, transcript available at http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3568627.htm