The Changing Mind by Daniel Levitin

The Changing Mind

Jennifer de Klerk: If the years are ticking up and you feel that you’re not what you were, you need to read this book.

Ageing, says neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, is not a deterioration; it’s a culmination. You may not see, walk or learn as fast as you did, but you recognise patterns better, you have wisdom and accumulated knowledge. You have plenty still to offer.

The key to ageing well, he says, is good social relationships and meaningful work. Volunteer, stay engaged, stay active and involved, keep learning and trying new things, look forward, not back. And to drive the message home there are numerous examples of men and women in their 80s and 90s still living creative, productive lives.

In 2018 Gloria Steinem (84) was asked, “Who are you passing the torch to?” “No-one,” she said. “I’ll let other people light their torches from mine.”

So, how to you achieve this? Diet, exercise, sleep, social factors, intelligence, pain, motivation all play a part. There are chapters that describe exactly how you are affected by each, giving scientific reasons, and what you can do about it, with, of course, plenty of motivation and humour mixed in.

There are chapters on how the brain works, memory, pain and how these affect you, plus those dreaded words, dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Dip into this book at any point. It can be a bit challenging to read it from cover to cover, although it’s in easy layman’s language. One way or another you are sure to find something you can use; that will make you feel better about the numbers on your birthday calendar, your aching feet, tired eyes and slipping memory.

The subtitle is “A Neuroscientist’s Guide to Ageing Well”. Old age comes with downs, but it comes with ups as well and it is possible to slow down and still live meaningfully and happily.

Sorry, I’m not going to lend you this book. I need to keep it handy!

The Changing Mind, a neuroscientist’s guide to ageing well
Daniel Levitin
Penguin/Random House
ISBN: 978-0-241-37939-4

Jennifer de Klerk is editor of