The Elder Law Forum

The Elder Law Forum
"Unstable People Carry Cell Phones?"

I do not own a cell phone, in part because behavioral studies suggest that as we age we become more emotionally stable.

Last weekend I affirmed that finding. Our Subaru abruptly stopped five miles from the Minneapolis airport, the result of a faulty water pump that seized the timing belt, causing $2,500 damage to the engine. My son and I walked two miles in a futile search for a public pay phone as my daughter patiently waited for our arrival.


Finally, we flagged down a motorist with a cell phone and a half hour later my son Nick came to the rescue. Survival is easy in a big city.

The following day I borrowed my daughter-in-law's SUV, purchased a tow-bar, disengaged the Subaru's drive shaft, rented an auto dolly, and towed it some 400 miles from Minneapolis to Hartington, NE, where my favorite and much-utilized mechanic resides.

As we encountered Minneapolis mechanics and rental agencies, Nick complimented me on the equanimity and calmness I displayed during the entire episode. He attributed my new-founded acceptance of misfortune to the Zen Buddhism routine I perform each morning.

"Dad, I believe that Buddhist-Catholic path you're on has really changed you," he said. "You used to get up-tight when things went awry."

Chi-Kung meditation has helped. But it appears that the passage of time has been the major contributor to my evolving serenity. "People do mellow with age," asserts Australian researcher Leanne Williams, who used scans to compare the brain activity between groups of elderly and young volunteers.

Brain recordings found that the medial prefrontal cortex – the area associated with emotional control – was more active in elderly people. They were better at perceiving happiness and worse at perceiving fear.

The report affirms earlier behavioral studies suggesting that the elderly are more emotionally stable than younger people. Williams believes there may be an evolutionary advantage to mellowing with age.

One advantage is the ability to live without a cell phone, knowing that in an emergency a younger person, with a less active medial prefrontal cortex, will have one.

(Pro bono legal information and advice is available to persons 55 and older through the USD Senior Legal Helpline, 1-800-747-1895; mmyers@usd.edu)

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