The old keep getting older and the young must do the same. I am 54 years old today. Assuming that I live to be 108, I am middle aged. I went running yesterday and ran my record worst time for a late spring run. I only measure the middle mile, so that it is not a sprint or a worn out finish. I used to run it in under six minutes. Yesterday it took almost ten. Fat guys and women now sometimes pass me AND stay ahead. Running still feels the same. Maybe my watch is defective. Maybe all watches are defective. Maybe I will just leave the watch at home, since none of them seem to measure my running accurately. I still do ten chin-ups after each run. Since I never try to do more, I don’t know that I have become weaker in that respect. I am pretty sure I have but since I don’t know I have plausible deniability.
I am also not as quick as I used to be mentally. This is an interesting situation. I sense that my raw cognitive power has declined, but in compensation I have more experience so I respond better to some challenges. Emotional intelligence is higher, in other words. I am also better at judging situations so that I can do things I am better at doing and avoid the ones where I am weaker.
I read an article a long time ago about useful intelligence and how it develops over a lifetime. Young people have more raw brainpower, but they lack the perspective and experience to make it useful in all fields. The raw brain v experience makes the most difference in pure reasoning such as math. If a person has not achieved something extraordinary in math by the time he is twenty-five, he never will. Achievements in physics come just a bit later and on it goes. In fields where experience and perspective make the most difference, older people do better. Historians, statesmen and diplomats continue to get better. They do their best work when they are fifty or more. That gives me a little comfort as I hobble down the the winding path. The picture, BTW, is me cutting a path through the prickly brush on the tree farm. The machine ran out of gas long before I ran out of brush to cut. I suppose that is a metaphor for life.