One Brain at a Time
By: Patrick M. Kennedy
My memory banks to the left/right. For starters, memory, and not to be confused with a memory chip, is the human’s control or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained, especially through associative mechanisms; that is, the store of things learned and retained from an individual’s activity or experience, and seniors have a lot of these, as evidenced by modification of structure or behavior or by recall and recognition. For seniors, these last parts, recall and recognition, are sometimes the deal killers. To sum it up George Burns said, “By the time you’re eighty years old you’ve learned everything. You only have to remember it.
To make is more complicated, the left and right brain functions are responsible for differences in seniors and the way we process information. Whether we use the left brain and right brain together or have a dominant half explains a great deal about how you learn and express yourself. Although many believe artists are right-brained, this isn't always the case. For example, some artists plot out their painting long before the first brush stroke, which indicates left-brained planning. This then indicates that the right brain is the non-planning culprit that makes most seniors they way they are … unpredictable, temperamental, or to some, just plain flaky.
We all know that we do have only one brain, but the scientists say it’s got various ‘bits’. The part of the brain that controls rational functions, the cerebral cortex, is made up of two halves. These are connected by billions of nerve fibers that allow ‘messages’ to be shot between them. These halves, for simplicity, have been named the right brain and left brain, but should more correctly be termed ‘hemispheres’. For some reason, our right and left hemispheres control the ‘opposite’ sides of our bodies, so the right hemisphere controls our left side while the left hemisphere controls the right side. Huh! No wonder seniors are seen staggering down the street. It’s not the booze; it’s the battling hemispheres in the ole bean.
So, which is better? Though right-brain or non-verbal thinking is often regarded as more creative, there is no right or wrong; it’s merely two different ways of thinking. One is not better than the other, just as being right-handed is not superior to being left-handed. What is important is to be aware that there are different ways of thinking, knowing what your natural preference is, and if it’s strongly verbal (left brain) rather than visual (right brain) being open to trying new approaches.
“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources,” said Albert Einstein. In other words, who cares where your memories come from, or how they are used, as long as they are yours. If you trip over a crack in the sidewalk while on your daily stroll, you can say, ‘that is my right brain trying new approaches.’ If you shout out a stream of cuss words, you can say ‘that is just my left brain exercising its creativity’.
Memory and forgetting go hand-in-hand in a senior’s life. We all have experienced the ‘how to lose the remembrance’ of something, that is, to be unable to think of or recall something. But to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, “A man must get a thing before he can forget it.” And seniors have gotten a lot of things through life to forget, and remember if necessary. It’s just part of the deal in being a senior and some things just get bogged down from over use. The key is to use one brain at a time, and that brain should be used for writing down lists. You don’t want to go back to the store to buy that jar of Mayo you need for your tuna salad sandwich.