Book Review: “The Mature Mind”

The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain THE MATURE MIND: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain, by Gene Cohen M.D. (Basic Books, 2006)

Review by Marguerite Langlois

Drawing on his medical practice, his deep interest in the processes of aging, and his experience in his own life and others’ lives, Cohen wrote this book to describe and define the aging process as a developmental phase of life instead of decline. When it was published just a few years ago, it was one of the first books to combine research results and life experiences to counter still unfortunately widespread ideas about what happens to our minds as we age.

“The complex neural architecture of older brains built over years of experience, practice, and daily living, is a fundamental strength of older adults.”

Cohen goes beyond “if you use it, you won’t lose it” to describe real development, not just prevention of loss. He gives examples and ideas on creating new approaches to learning, developing different types of social connections, using our memories and experiences as a basis for further development of wisdom, and continuing to actively create our lives. His descriptions of what we can do for community and what community can do for us reminded me of our developing community as the Village.

One important note: Cohen wrote this book in 2005, before the recession, when more people were assured of “golden years” of financial freedom. So some of his descriptions about what we can do with our retirement years don’t quite fit with current financial experiences and the need to redefine that word “retirement.”

In the seven years since this book was published, more and more is being written about this time of life we call “aging” or “senior” or “elder.” Our culture tends to think of us and label us as “getting old” from 60 or so onward – labeling us that way for a span of 30 or 40 or more years, ignoring all the nuances and development. With experiences like the Village and our individual lives, we are saying that there’s way more to it than that. Cohen’s thoughtful and questioning book provides good basis for further exploration.


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