Most of us welcome the conveniences that make our lives more enjoyable—or at least easier to navigate. Although that’s generally true for me, too, convenience is not always a good thing. A story to illustrate: When I was a youngster, my father sometimes used whatever tool was at hand—e.g., a monkeywrench—to pound in nails. When we brothers asked why he didn’t use a hammer, his response was simply, “Too easy.” His response sparks these thoughts….
Many of our contrivances and technologies make life tasks easier; some improve our physical well-being—e.g., medical devices, safety equipment, ergonomically oriented tools. The biological axiom, “Use it or lose it”, suggests caution, though: Neurobiological research suggests that our mental and physical capabilities shrink when they are not challenged or strengthened. An example: Neurodegenerative disease scientist Christopher Kemp observes, “When we opt to use a GPS device, we’re no longer using our own powerful internal navigation system. Eventually, with neglect and disuse, the *hippocampus becomes non-responsive.” (Dark and Magical Places: The Neuroscience of Navigation. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2022), p. 171.
It may seem that we deserve to enjoy retirement as a time to relax, kick back and enjoy the comforts of a lifestyle surrounded by convenience. The opposite may also be true: This is the time in life to seek new physical, emotional, spiritual and mental encounters. To relish new challenges, explore new horizons and develop new capabilities and relationships.
Even though gathering macular degeneration and a stroke prohibited him from fully engaging in an active lifestyle, my father still enjoyed the challenges of gardening and volunteering. He also remained an inquisitive observer of life, the people he loved and the spiritual truths he fiercely believed.
I hope to live that way, too!
*The hippocampus is a pair of small, seahorse-shaped brain structures that enable and organize long-term memory, as well as spatial and navigational capabilities that are key foundations for cognition.
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