What if age is just a state of mind? | Bruce Grierson | TEDxPSU

What if age is just a state of mind? | Bruce Grierson | TEDxPSU


Translator: Emma Gon
Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard How old do you think this woman is? This is Olga Kotelko,
pride of West Vancouver, Canada flying over the long jump pit at UCLA. So, Olga is 91 here. Audience: ohhh And you may be thinking, what’s in the water
up there in West Vancouver? (Laughter) Or maybe what’s in the genes
of Olga Kotelko? Olga, I should tell you,
took up track and field at the age 77,
so here she’s just rounding into form. She competed in 11 events
including high-jump and 100 meter-dash
and she was well on her way at this point to becoming the most decorated
masters athlete ever with more than 50 world records
in her age categories. And she and I were well into
a pretty intensive investigation of what makes Olga run. And by run, I mean tick.
Run like a watch that’s running more slowly
than other watches. Now, Olga visited
a lot of labs for this project and she had a lot of
testing done on herself. And by every measure, she came out at least 30 years younger
than her chronological age. This is a person who at 90 reported that she felt like a 50 year old and she moved like a 40 year old. So what was going on? If you ask scientists,
‘What slows aging?’ You’ll get answers like
eating better and eating less, managing chronic stress,
getting enough sleep, not sitting too much, exercise. Olga ticked all those boxes, but then so do a lot of people
and they’re not Olga. So, what was her X factor? Longevity genes? Her family history says no. Well, as Olga and I traveled together and I got to know her better and better, a sort of strange theory started
to push to the front of my mind. What if Olga is not becoming
a wizened little old lady at the expected rate,
because she had decided not to? We’ve been paying very closed attention
to her from the neck down, but what if the real story
or an appreciable part of the story was happening from the neck up? I call Olga, a “warrior mensch”, because she was almost two people in one. Off the track, she was your grandmother. “Thrilled to see you.
Can you stay for a visit? Your timing is excellent,
because I just made way too much pie.” (Laughter) You know, sweet traits and they won her a lot of friends, which actually turns out to be
a great thing healthwise. On the track, she flipped a switch. (Laughter) She kind of got the red mist going. Nothing existed for her except
the results she was visualizing, a new world record. Olga didn’t doubt for a minute that she could compete at an elite level well into her 90s and beyond. “Why not?”, she’d say, and then you tried to explain, “Well, because Olga, after a certain point shrinking muscle mass and thinning bones human limits, yadda, yadda, yadda.” She didn’t care about any of that stuff. She thought limits were illusory. When that’s the lens that
you’re looking at the world through, something happens. It turns out the stories
we tell ourselves about ourselves matter a whole lot. And even the way
we think about aging itself matters. Becca Livy here,
a psychologist at Yale, analyzed data from
hundreds of American seniors, collected over 25 years. And what she found was that the ones who’d kindo of drunk
the cultural Kool-aid, who believed the messages
coming out on their TV sets that youth reigns supreme
and beyond 75 or so, we all fade into dottering irrelevance, those people tended
to become weak and frail at a faster than average rate. Whereas those who had
a more positive view of aging, who thought that growing old
is nothing to fear and actually had a lot of upside, those people lived 7.5 years
longer on average than the ones who kind of
rued their lost youth. Now, over at Harvard,
psychologist Ellen Langer spent almost four decades studying something called youth primes. A youth prime is anything
that makes you feel young. And what Ellen found is that
people exposed to youth primes — and hang with me on this
because it’s mind-blowing — people exposed to
youth primes scored better on a whole host of physiological measures. Their vision improved,
their hearing improved. Things like grip strength
and working memory improved. The upshot is, if you really believe, if you can find a way to believe that you’re stronger, faster,
sharper and nimbler than your birth certificate said you should be, if you really find a way to buy into that, your body recalibrates. Ellen’s work always
makes me think of Olga, because what Olga did so ingeniously was, she put herself in the middle
of a whole lot of youth primes every time she stepped on the track. I found out first hand
how this works 3 and a half years ago. That’s when Ellen… Olga inspired me to put down my pen
and go deeper into the reporting. So I googled up the entry form
for one of her meets, the Word Masters
Championships in Sacramento. I found my category, males 45 to 49. I found an event, 10,000 meters,
why not? (Laughter) I took a deep breath,
pushed ‘Send’ on my application. Six weeks later,
stepped into the movie Cocoon. There are thousand of
competitors at these meets. It’s like a world of quasi Olgas
that I hadn’t really known about. And you know, from here down, they’re all a decade or
more younger than they look. At one point, I was watching
an Australian woman in the 800 meters, I found myself staring at her bum and I later learned she was almost 70. (Laughter) In this environment,
all the cues scream: “We’re not old, none of us are old. We can’t be old, because look
what we were doing, running, jumping, throwing things,
school kids stuff. Chasing prizes again.” That’s pretty intoxicating. When a whole community
lifts each other up like that, it’s kind of awesomely
rejuvenating even to watch. Faith, belief, purpose, these are mighty forces. They’re hard to measure, which I think maybe
why they don’t get the attention of the other heath metrics,
but don’t underestimate them. Everybody likes to talk about lucky genes, but in terms of its power
to shape your life, what’s in your heart blows away
what’s in your genome. And this was my big takeaway
from all of this. When I think of my pal
Olga Kotelko, I don’t think of, — I’m going to tell you
about how I did in my race — I forgot to tell you. I came almost dead last
in my race in Sacramento. (Laughter) But I don’t remember the humiliation. And I don’t remember
the pain in that race, but what I remembered
is Olga reaching out, she’s barely 5 feet tall and
clamping a hand on my shoulder and kind of pulling me and saying, “I am so proud of you.” Olga died in June. Very suddenly,
right at the top of her game. A blood vessel burst in her brain
in the middle of the night. People said, “What a tragedy! She could have gone on and on.” But Olga wasn’t into
the idea of super-longevity, she was into the idea
of super-flourishing, just living the life we have. Olga was my youth prime. She James Dean-ed it out of here at 95, leaving nothing undone
and nothing undreamed. And I want to say,
we should all be so lucky. But luck doesn’t belong in this story. Thank you. (Applause)

8 Comments on "What if age is just a state of mind? | Bruce Grierson | TEDxPSU"


  1. I could be his smoking gun. I haven't always done the what's best in diet and sleeping. Plus I didn't regularly exercise, beat up my body with work (sometimes I'd get like 6 hrs of sleep and wouldn't eat lunch), and I have also not always put the smartest things into my body. But I've always kinda been a man child and have claimed that I was living to at least 400 or just went full ridiculous and claimed I was a vampire(spider-man, immortal, and all kinds of nonsense). I'm about to be 31 but my little avatar claims different.

    Reply

  2. Goodness gracious. What a woman. And seriously, why doesn't this talk have more views. I think there is still time when science arrives to this logical conclusion but the takeaway here is that the stuff that goes on in your hand HIGHLY influences how your body behaves including aging. And as they say, where there is a will there is a way. It's high time we started taking up mental health seriously; it's just the other side of the coin physical health is a part of

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *