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We’re all aging, but what do we need to know about successful aging? I reached out to the person who wrote a comprehensive successful aging book, Daniel Levitin, a noted neuroscientist, musician, and author, to find out.
I discuss with Daniel Levitin:
- What led him to write Successful Aging
- How he defines successful aging
- Common misconceptions about aging
- How our brains change as we age
- What older brains are better at than younger brains
- The roles personality and mindset play in successful aging
- What he learned from the Dalai Lama
- Why you should consider working longer, and even never “retiring”
- How music can be helpful in successful aging
- What steps you can take to start to age successfully
Daniel J. Levitin is an award-winning neuroscientist, musician, and best-selling author. His research encompasses music, the brain, health, productivity and creativity.
Levitin has published more than 300 articles, in journals including Science, Nature, PNAS, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal. His research has been featured over 1800 times in the popular press, including 17 articles in The New York Times, and in The London Times, Scientific American, and Rolling Stone. He is a frequent guest on NPR and CBC Radio and has appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, and CNN. His TED talk is among the most popular of all time.
He is the author of four New York Times bestselling books: This Is Your Brain On Music, The World in Six Songs, The Organized Mind and Successful Aging, as well as the international bestseller A Field Guide to Lies. A popular public speaker, he has given presentations on the floor of Parliament in London, to the U.S. Congress, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. He has consulted for a number of companies including Apple, Booz-Allen, Microsoft, the United States Navy, Sonos, Philips, Sony, Fender, and AT&T.
Dr. Levitin earned his B.A. from Stanford in Cognitive Science, his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology with a Ph.D. minor in Music Technology from the University of Oregon, and completed post-doctoral training at Stanford University Medical School and UC Berkeley in Neuroimaging and Perception.
As a musician (tenor saxophone, guitar, vocals and bass), he has performed with Mel Tormé, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Victor Wooten and Tom Scott. Levitin has produced and consulted on albums by artists including Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell and on the films Good Will Hunting and Pulp Fiction, and has been awarded 17 gold and platinum records.
Levitin taught at Stanford in the Departments of Computer Science, Psychology, History of Science, and Music, and has been a Visiting Professor at Dartmouth, and UC Berkeley. He is currently the Founding Dean of Arts & Humanities at the Minerva Schools at the Keck Graduate Institute, San Francisco, California, and James McGill Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Neuroscience and Music at McGill University.
On Personality Factors and Successful Aging
“One of the big ones is conscientiousness. It’s the biggest single predictor, much more so than socioeconomic status, of how your life is going to turn out at any age. Conscientiousness is a cluster of different things having to do with reliability, dependability exercising due caution, and rule-following, to some degree. A kid who’s conscientious isn’t going to cross against the light, and so, is less likely to get hit by a bus. An adult who’s conscientious is less likely to end up in prison – and an older adult who’s conscientious is going to see the doctor when something’s wrong. They’re actually going to do what the doctor tells them to do. My doctor friends tell me that, you know, 80% of their patients are non-compliant and, but a conscientious person is. So that’s the role of personality in all of this. Now there are other factors that influence life satisfaction and health besides conscientiousness, but that’s the big one.”
“You don’t like the way you are? You can change – you can change at any age. And that’s a mindset issue – you have to want to change. It’s like the old joke about the psychiatrist and the light bulb. How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is one, but the light bulb has to want to change.”
More on Daniel Levitin
Buy Successful Aging – now available in paperback
Related Podcast Episodes on Positive Aging
How Can You Be Better with Age? – Alan Castel
What Can You Do to Age Better? – Anna Dixon
Are You Ready for The New Long Life? – Andrew Scott
Can You Grow Younger? – Marta Zaraska
Are You in the Driver’s Seat? – Cindy Cox-Roman on Personal Agency
Is Working Into Retirement Good for Your Brain? – Dawn Carr
Advice for Successful Career Women Transitioning to Retirement – Helen Dennis
Retirement Planning Includes Getting Good at Getting Older – Rabbi Laura Geller
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