We have never needed this conversation and this book on wisdom more than we need it now.
This week I had the honor of talking with Dr. Dilip Jeste who is a geriatric neuropsychiatrist specializing in successful psychosocial aging and the neurobiology of wisdom. He has published more than 750 peer-reviewed journals articles, 160 book chapters, and 14 published books. He is also a former president of the American Psychiatric Association and his main areas of research include schizophrenia, neuropsychiatric interventions, and successful aging.
Not only is his resume of education and professional experience incredibly impressive and expansive, but for over two decades he has led the search for the biological and cognitive roots of wisdom. What's emerged from his work is that wisdom is a very real and deeply multi-layered set of traits. Across many cultures and centuries, he's found that wise people are:
· Compassionate and empathetic.
· aware of their gifts and blind spots.
· resolute and calm amid uncertainty.
· altruistic decision-makers who learn from their experiences.
· able to see from many perspectives and "altitudes"
· and often blessed with a sense of adventure and humor.
He is the author of Wiser: The Scientific Roots of Wisdom, Compassion, and What Makes Us Good. Get your copy here.
Watch his TEDMED Talk.
How can we measure wisdom? - Take the FREE Jeste-Thomas Wisdom Index
Connect with Dr. Jeste
His website, Facebook, Twitter.
Connect with Marci
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Hello, and welcome to permission to hear. I am Marci Brockman, and I am thrilled that you were here today on episode 48. I have a very impressive man. Dr. Dilip Jeste. He is a senior associate Dean for healthy aging and senior care distinguished professor of psychiatry and neuroscience. Estelle and Edgar leaving the Memorial chair in aging, the director of Sam and Rose Stein Institute of research on aging, and the co-director of the UC San Diego IBM center on artificial intelligence and healthy living.
[00:00:36] He is a geriatric neuropsychiatrist specializing in successful psycho-social aging and the neurobiology of. He has over 750 peer-reviewed journal articles, 160 books, chapters, and 14 published books. His latest book is called wiser the scientific roots of wisdom
[00:01:00] He is. Also the former president of the American psychiatric association. He was the first Asian American elected president of the American psychiatric association in its 75-year history. And he is listed in the best doctors in America. He is originally from Mumbai India, where he did his medical school in psychiatric training.
[00:01:21] And he did a psychiatric residency in Cornell, a neurology residency at George Washington University. He was a research fellow and later chief of movement disorders and dementia at the national institutes of mental health, or N I M H before joining UC San Diego, his resume alone had me sort of shaking in my boots here.
[00:01:41] This man is the real deal. And he's spent his life researching schizophrenia and neuropsychiatric interventions and he's the most passionate about helping people be healthier and wiser and age gracefully and healthfully, and have active, meaningful lives with intergenerational connection and community, and so on. And there are so many pieces of what. I think is traditionally thought of as wisdom as just behavioral. Just stuff you do knowledge that you acquire over time and so on.
[00:02:18] But, but through his research and what we discussed in, in our, in our conversation, which you're about to listen to is the neurobiological connection between. The growth of wisdom and the increase in mental health and the decrease in depression and so on. And we really get into what we can each do in our lives, right now to help increase our community-mindedness and our compassion and empathy and our acceptance and.
[00:02:54] Patients for diversity and diverse information and diverse opinions about things and go out and make the world a better place by making ourselves happier within the community. You know, with, with COVID, especially. And, and even before Dr. Jess day said, we've had this growing pandemic of loneliness and people are more isolated than they've ever been before and more lonely.
[00:03:22] And that it's bad for everyone. It's bad for our society at large, it's bad for us individually, you know, there's so much. Benefit psychological benefit, neurological benefit, social benefit, physical benefit to being involved in our communities, to having a consistent friend group that you can rely on and talk with and hang out with, and laugh with and share the ups and downs of life with, Go be creative with people, join a book club or an art club or go like, do what, like my dad does, he's almost 82 and he's in a bridge club and he plays tennis and he's singing and he's in a dramatic group and he's got a large group of friends and all of these things help bring meaning and joy, legitimate, true joy into his life and, and makes the world a little more creative and wonderful place. So I hope that you enjoy this conversation.
[00:04:19] With Dr. Dilip just a, he's a he's wonderful. And again, his book wiser, the scientific roots of wisdom and all of the stuff that you're going to need to look for are, are in the show notes. So you can just scroll down when you're done listening to the episode, including the measurement tool.
[00:04:37] So you can see for yourself just how wise you are. The, just a Thomas wisdom index score scroll down and you can take. Little online survey and, and see what characteristics you need a little bit of work in. We all need a little bit of work. Nobody's perfect.
[00:04:57] Oh, and thank you so much for listening. I should say this more often than I do, but I am so thrilled that the listenership is growing. I'm so thrilled that you're all tuning in week after week and really enjoying it. The conversations that I'm trying to bring to make us all healthier, to make us all a little happier, to bring more joy into our lives, a little bit more meaning so that we can really give ourselves permission to heal.
[00:05:22] And so please, if you love these episodes, please like, please share. Please leave comments, please subscribe. I can't tell you how invaluable those things are. Those tiny little things. That'll take you two minutes. They make us more available to more people. So thank you so much for listening now.
[00:00:00] Good afternoon, Dr. . How are you today? Very well, thank you, Marcy. It's a pleasure to talk to you. You as well, I've been looking forward to this. I've been devouring your book. It's a quite wonderful wisdom. I think it's something that we all need, especially now I, especially now I think people are not, some people are not remembering their pro-social behaviors, you know, anyway, so questions, but before we get into that, we usually do the six quick questions.
[00:00:37] So let's just jump in. What, what six words would you use to describe yourself?
[00:00:54] booked an optimist,
[00:00:56] Listener of course,
[00:01:00] enjoying I'm with different generations. Okay. Oh, there is more than one word. I get it though. That's fine. It's fine. Okay. What is your favorite way to spend the day?
[00:01:15] These days though? My favorite way to spend the day is it. Oh, an 18-month-old grandchild. Wonderful. Is nothing better than that. Better than a sweet baby. Yes. Congratulations. That's wonderful. Is this your first, your first grand baby or no, we have quite a more one, but at this age, 18 month period, some exciting coming, they learn something, they do something new every day.
[00:01:47] There's so much excitement, energy, which is, it is infectious. So you feel excited and energetic and enthusiastic so much. Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. We, my husband, and I have five grandchildren from his daughter. We're a second marriage. And so from his daughter, so I missed all of their baby hoods and I'm having fun with the elementary and middle school ages, but I missed the babyhood.
[00:02:15] So the pressures on my own biological children to give me grand babies. Miss that. I want to do that again. Okay. What is your favorite childhood memory? I want to suppose to give a presentation in my class and I was usually known as the shy kid and that's where not sure how I was going to do that.
[00:02:40] So they offered some sedation and I must say I surprised myself by keeping a presentation that was pretty calm, controlled. And it gave me a lot of self-confidence wonderful and yes, that's a good memory to have good sort of feed off of that for very many years. You know, that the confidence of that is important integral to a young student.
[00:03:12] Yeah. That's great. And especially for me, because I wasn't, I've been always more of an introvert. I don't go out to seek new relationships, but of course I make them, but, I'm not social, but I'm not the most extroverted person either. So that's why it was important for being, do you remember what the presentation was about?
[00:03:38] Just something not academic. Okay. So I don't remember the details, but it was some trip that, we had gone on. And that's not something I was known for. I mean, I was a bookworm and like I study, so for me, some kind of extracurricular activity to talk about that openly in front of these other kids and the teacher was really gratifying.
[00:04:11] That's wonderful. Surprising. That's wonderful. I like that. Number four, what is your favorite meal now? This changes with people depends on your mood.
[00:04:25] In a way that's easy to answer, like come from India. And I still love Indian food. And the typical Indian meal actually is not the one thing that people think that the same time. So there are no courses. Yeah. It's like a tamale we have when you go to an Indian restaurant. So, so there are some spicy things, some plain, some sweet things, and all at the same time.
[00:04:49] Yeah. And I liked that about Indian food that there's so much, so many dishes and so many things to taste good. Right. And so it is, it doesn't matter, but it is vegetarian or non-vegetarian with chicken fish, whatever, but it is a mixture of spices weakness that, that, that I enjoy using the whole full range of your taste palette.
[00:05:16] Exactly. Nice. Nice. Okay. Number five. What one piece of advice would you like to give your younger self.
[00:05:23] I would say that how
[00:05:26] I would say Billy more in yourself than what other people tell you to, you had to trust yourself, trust your instinct, and you want to, when people say something won't work, don't listen to that because you are different from others, just different from you. So you don't cope by what the conventional wisdom may be.
[00:05:57] And if you believe in yourself, you can change. That's wonderful. I've had quite a few. Moments in my life where I could, I could feel like a diverging path, you know, and most conventional wisdom would, would have me go one way. And I said, Nope, I'm going the other way. And people said, no, it's not done that way.
[00:06:17] Don't go that way. We don't. And I always said, you don't know me. You don't know what I can do when I set my mind to it, I'm going that way. And it always worked out well, I have to say, and if it didn't work out, as well as I had thought, at least I had learned something from it and was able to course-correct.
[00:06:35] All right. Last question. What is one thing you would most like to change about the world?
[00:06:39] More acceptance of diverse perspectives, where we have strong values, strong opinions about something, but we can still be friends with somebody who believes. You know their ideas out of their value system. And so there is really need for diversity of perspective, to acceptance of diversity.
[00:07:05] That nobody's a hundred percent, right. Nobody's a hundred percent wrong most of the time. And then we need to have that respect for one another's opinion. And that's one of the competence of Bisco. Of course, of course it is one of the components of wisdom. I've heard quite a few people, even up some people on other podcasts with people that I know who have come to the conclusion in their own lives, that they can no longer tolerate.
[00:07:31] People have divergent opinions that they feel like, well, how can they be friends with someone who votes against their family, so to speak? And I make the hairs on my neck stand up. You know, I, I don't quite know what to do with that because I understand. I can empathize with their situation. I can understand how they feel, but if everybody felt exactly the same way about everything, I mean, that's an impossibility in the first place, but I just don't think that that's the way it should be great.
[00:08:04] Okay. Because I learned so much from others views and sometimes we've been not accept today, but sometime later we may go back to that idea and set it up. It's not a bad idea at all. Right. And so some things take a longer time to sink him, but they can. And so as long as he had all this possibility is good.
[00:08:27] Yes, I agree. Okay. So we're here to talk about wisdom, wisdom, and you know, I really didn't until I read your work. I really didn't think that there was. Biological neuro-psychological component to wisdom. I thought like so many other people that it was just a set of behaviors that were learned over time that you acquired as you aged.
[00:08:58] And that was that, but you're here to tell us different. That's quite, the thing here. Yes. This film has been an initial construct, has been prescribed in all the religions, practically all the philosophies. And it is one of the things that you can find in most of the scriptures in the word wisdom.
[00:09:26] It really appears in particularly all religions, all philosophies, and from Socrates to others, we can see that in some countries, some, and so on any. Empirical research and wisdom is a really recent tank, empirical reasons. So I grew up in, so I was born and raised in India. I went to medical school there and like several Eastern cultures.
[00:09:58] There's the belief that older people are wiser, older, people are respected. And the Indian scripture called the Gita is taught to be a compendium of whose job. So someone other that wisdom and aging stayed in my mind as I was growing up. But I didn't think much about that until decades later. So subsequently I became a psychiatrist.
[00:10:25] I became a neuroscience. And, and you were studying mental, mental illness and stuff, right? Initially, weren't you like studying schizophrenia and things like that? Schizophrenia has been my main area of research for many, many years, and I'm a pediatric psychiatrist. So I study is a friend or other people.
[00:10:47] And so when I started at work, people said, don't do that because it is so depressing. Schizophrenia is yes, mental illness. There's no cure for that. And aging is all bad. It's all gloom and doom. Everything goes down with aging, right? And so combination of the two would be terrible. And he had, what I found was that was not true at all.
[00:11:11] As people with schizophrenia got older, they started doing better psychologically. Wow. Not physically, not physically, but psychologically the symptoms improve. They reduced their smoking, drinking. They became more adherent with the medication and other therapies. I don't know if you saw a movie in name, beautiful mind.
[00:11:38] I did. I loved it was so good. So John now exactly, it's a true story about this Nobel Laureate who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was in his early twenties. And for the next 30 years, he was in an out-of-hospital received electric shocks, drugs, psychotherapies, you name it. And he had it. He didn't change until about 50.
[00:12:02] At 50. He started getting better. 60 his drop heart treatment. He wrote a research paper for us trying after 30 years. And so these are the kinds of people I have seen in my research and I had reported them, but people didn't really think that that was necessarily the case. They said, oh, it cannot be schizophrenia if it improves.
[00:12:25] But Dr. John Nash's story came out, I think people began to read that, yes, there can be improvement in schizophrenia with aging. And that led me then to think about whether this is something that Hopkins in the public at large also. So we did a large study of people in the community, some 2000 people from age 2200 plus, wow.
[00:12:55] That as people got older, the physical health declines, but mental health improves people become happier as they get older. And that doesn't make sense. I mean, hope camp, because then they have so many physical illnesses and, you know, there are social stresses, financial stresses with age, hope our people become happier.
[00:13:17] And that made me wonder whether that was a wisdom that I was brought up with thinking that wisdom ingredients with aging. And maybe is that what makes people older people happier? So that's all actually, I got into research on wisdom and aging about more than 15 years ago. Interesting. And then I found out actually that the research on wisdom actually started in about 1970s in Germany and here in California, but it has been growing and what most of it is done.
[00:13:56] Bye gerontology sociologist, not by a neuroscientist or physician. And so I really thought it was important to seek if wisdom is, how do you define it? How do you measure it? Does it have anything to do with the brain? And so that is how we started it on. Risto interesting. I do think that my father who will be 82 in January is happier than he was 30 years ago.
[00:14:27] You know, he's got a little bit of dementia and has trouble finding words now, and then, and his short term memory is not fabulous, but he's happier. He's more comfortable with who he is. He knows who his friends are. He has his activities. He doesn't have the stress and the ambivalence and the, the, the uproar of his earlier.
[00:14:48] So, and I know at 53, I'm happier than I was when I was 30. So to me, this is increasing that's exactly right. So then at 20, you know, or sees an eight year old in a wheelchair, Quintero says, I don't want to be like that. I don't want the group to be 80 and be in a wheelchair who wants that? Like, if we ask the eight year old in a pill, He, or she will say, I don't want to be me in my twenties again, that acidic, terrible period.
[00:15:20] I had so much stress, so much peer pressure and I as not being well, I was so much really stressed out in multiple ways. I had to choose what I was going to do rest of my life. I had to choose life partner and I always compared myself with others who are doing better. I don't want to be in my twenties.
[00:15:37] I'm so happy. I may be in a wheelchair, but I'm happy because I'm still alive. Some of the people who are born with me are not, I am here into the priorities, right? You look at the things that are really meaningful and really bring you, you know, abundant joy in a way that you didn't see decades.
[00:16:00] That's exactly what I call paradox of aging. As we age physical health declines, mental health improves, we become happier and not just happier, but the components of wisdom. So wisdom is a personality trait, and it includes empathy and compassion, rolling over emotions self-reflection and accepting diversity of perspective.
[00:16:30] And I think most of us above a certain age, we will say that as we got older, we become more empathetic and compassionate toward others. We are not as selfish as we were when we were in the twenties. Right. Throw you don't get into emotional outbursts every time we don't get anything. So we have more control over emotions.
[00:16:54] And something and something goes wrong. We don't always blame others. It's of, maybe I did something wrong and let me see what, how I could do better. So we can actually, if we self-reflect, we can see that those components are grouping with age. And so I think there is evidence and scientific evidence now to show that wisdom does increase with age.
[00:17:21] But, but again, here that this doesn't apply to every single person. Sure, sure. That makes sense. People who are very unwise and some young people who are really wise, but by and large, they become wiser, British by and large. So wisdom as you were describing. Has compassion, including self compassion and empathy, emotional regulation, balancing decisiveness with acceptance of uncertainty.
[00:17:49] Self-reflection curiosity, humor, spirituality, and openness to diversity. I think I got it. Right. Right. Absolutely. Right. Okay, good. So how, how do you measure that? I mean, I, there was an article written that in reader's digest of all places that quoted you, that it was the way, the way you answered these six questions, tell us how wise you really are.
[00:18:17] And so of course, I, I did. Quiz, it's six questions you scored out of 18 and I got 14. Okay. Wise, I'm a wise ass. What can I tell you? But then I found in your book, I, I found the, the just de Thomas wisdom index score. So I went and I took the free little survey you have on there. And that was much more much more detailed, you know, asked a lot more other questions, similar questions that I thought that the, the, the Myers-Briggs typology inventory asked similar types of questions, but obviously they're, they're being scored or calculated differently.
[00:18:54] Uh, and then, and then I looked at my results very quickly and I had over four in each one, but some were lower than others, and I'm going to make my husband do it for me later and see what his results for me are because maybe I skewed them. I don't know. Maybe I think I'm better than I am. I don't know. I don't know.
[00:19:15] Uh, it's interesting though. I can tell you read reading your work and you're very wise, personally. I think that you are really, you're practicing what people preach, which is empathy, compassion, self-reflection emotional regulation. Um, no, and I mean that, I think it's really true. But coming back to your question, how do you manage?
[00:19:42] Yeah. Yeah. You said that, you know, you have been through rough times in your childhood and adulthood, and yet you grew from them, you learn from them, you came to believe yourself more, as you said, you would give permission to heal to yourself. And, and so that, that becomes really an inspiration and role models for others.
[00:20:04] So I, I really appreciate that. I appreciate that as well. That makes me feel really good. Oh, you short, I should. So stem is a personality trait and there are scales for measuring personality traits. Just like you mentioned, Myers-Brigg questionnaire. So these scales, they have statements about behavior, right?
[00:20:29] And you have to say too extreme to agree or not equity in-depth statement as it applies to you. Right? So using that, and I have a colleague Michael Thomas, who is psychologist and exporting skill development. So he and I, we together developed this scale, which has 28 items called San Diego is scale, or just the Thomas wisdom index and the six items that you mentioned, actually, what happened when our paper came out with those 28 items, one of the newspapers just took six of them and they just took some random six.
[00:21:06] They just took some random sex and publish it as if that was the whole scale. So I think it was quick way up for the newspaper to get something out and then readers, I guess, copy of that. So that's funny, but coming back. Yeah. So, so the V two major personality is really asking the person herself or himself, because there is no objective way of measuring it, but when people complete the scale for purposes, like tend to be honest in a sense if I'm applying for a job.
[00:21:44] And if you ask me how compassionate I am, I will say I'm very compassionate because I want to get a shot. Of course. Cause you're being judged by that. Exactly. But here you're not an assessment with exact computer scale. I remain anonymous who copies the scale. And so I got the score. So who cares about, so most people are pretty honest in competing time.
[00:22:05] And so on that page. So what it does is it keeps you scores on each component of wisdom. It gives you a score on it, but he compassion scored on self-reflection score on emotional regulation. And that is very helpful because we all are strong in some areas and weak in some area. And it helps to find out what are our strengths and what are our limitations.
[00:22:31] Yeah. My, my lowest score was regulating my own emotions and Makes sense. It makes sense. It takes me far less time to get over being angry or being hurt or being betrayed or feeling like any of those trigger points. It takes me far less time to get over that and balance myself again than it used to, but it still takes some time.
[00:22:57] It doesn't happen quickly. You know, now it might take two or three days, whereas before it might take months, you know, who knows? But I've, I've gotten better at the pendulum swinging back to neutral. Right? Is it like that these changes don't happen overnight.
[00:23:16] It requires time, but if we practice it consciously focus on that things will change. So, do you think there's a difference between wisdom in the sexes? Do you think men or women are more with wise than others or do you think it's the same? So there are differences on different components of your strong empathy and compassion has been consistently found to be greater in women than in men.
[00:23:52] Enhanced health justice is absolutely really well-established finding. And this is, this is an appeal to humans. This has been shown even in animals. Really? The female. Yes, because it is biologically-based. I mean, think about maternal nurturing thing. That's exactly right. Maternal things, only women produce papers, main dome, and then you can't really have a baby without having a bond with the baby, put the baby to survive.
[00:24:23] And there are biology called explanation. There are hormones that help attack then. Yes, exactly. And so there's unquestionably biology, even evolution, evolutionary significance for why women are more compassionate than men. Okay. This child, mother porn is so unique. You know, I have two daughters and I'm attached to my daughters also, no question.
[00:24:56] And here really the women have more influence on their babies, um, um, may and have, so, um, But there is no question that on that competent of wisdom, interestingly though, is worth mentioning compassion to herself is not hiring women well, that I believe it is lower in women than in men. So women are more compassionate to others.
[00:25:25] Whereas men are more compassionate toward themselves, uh, that I buy, I believe that completely. I think that society forever has taught women that their value is in service to others. And so that has to play into this, you know, and likewise for men, narcissism is the art of masculinity. Again, because of this traditional thinking that men are the they're the hunters they print up forward.
[00:25:56] And that's why the family depends on them. So that's why they are important. The father knows the best. Right. All of those things, which help men become more narcissistic and probably the testosterone contributes to that just like estrogen contributes to compassion towards babies and others. So, um, similarly women tend to be somewhat more self-reflecting, uh, and more accepting of diverse perspectives.
[00:26:27] Okay. As men may have more, better control over emotions and they may be more decisive. I can see that. That seems to make sense. I got these have kind of skied or type that doesn't apply maybe would apply to everyone. Yeah. All right. So, so then our differences and based on what I would say, by-and-large, I mean, we meant tend to be more wise than me, and maybe there is no question about that.
[00:27:02] I mean, if you think about a large family, you often go to your grandma for advice. And I don't think I wanted to talk about with you, the grandma hypothesis. I love this. Keep going, keep going. Okay. So, so I said, so I started the researcher, this idea of looking at wisdom and aging, whether that is really scientifically based.
[00:27:30] And I've found that yes, it is scientifically, but with a caveat, as I mentioned,
[00:27:37] And I sent it to this dumb probably makes people happier, older people, but there is something more to that than happiness. If you think so much erotic psychiatrist. Right. And I always wondered about Darwin's hypothesis of survival of the fittest, right? What Darwin said, what Darwin said was that animals sleep only so long as they can produce babies because in any species or animals dry.
[00:28:09] Right. And they have to be replaced with babies. They don't leave. The species will survive, right? So the babies have to be there. That is why and die. Soon after they stopped being titled that had lions, tigers, dogs, cats, I mean, all of these animals, not in humans, human. We have the men had menopause around 45, 50 men has something similar called andropause around 45 50.
[00:28:43] Yeah. Yeah. The distrust, their own levels drop. So ordered man cannot cruise. Can I, I'm not for it. I, um, I got the exact age ladies from person to person, a bird by, in life. That is true. So if somebody leaves to Asia 90, that means they have spent half of their lifespan without being able to produce babies.
[00:29:09] Why does nature allow that it doesn't make sense because you don't see that in most other species. Right? What the research has shown is that when the grandma is involved in helping her hydro daughter, Rachel. That our daughter lives longer is happier. And she has more time to produce babies because if she were only bringing a baby, she won't have much time for anything else.
[00:29:41] Right. But because now she has more time because her mom is helping raise grandkids. That's another important way of looking at it. Then can we produce babies at the age of four, 14 or 15? That's when we are puberty. Right. Right. So we see, you know, teenagers, you know, they all cook. Uh, they used to be very common in the past.
[00:30:07] Right. And he had the brain continues to grow still VRD in our twenties. Right. Okay. So you've got to produce babies when our brain has not grown from. So we produce babies when we don't know how to take care of ourselves, let alone take care of the babies. Right.
[00:30:33] That's exactly, exactly. Right. Right. So your months need a grandmas species. Survival makes sense. And so that is very wisdom comes into play that wisdom you want all older people or these babies, they help the younger generations do longer be more fulfilled and also going beyond fertility, how can you transmit culture from one generation to another through grandparents?
[00:31:12] Right. Right. So grandparents. Exactly grandparents are the ones who transmit that lives up. Compassion, empathy, emotional regulation, just imagine, but you know, teenager with the baby, the teenager himself, his emotional structure at our door minute, two minutes. That is the emotional regulation. That's just the grandparents coming.
[00:31:37] So you months need grandparents or the survival of the species and for the wellbeing of the younger generations. Oh, and the wellbeing for the older generation too. I mean, it's a whole reciprocal thing, of course, right, exactly. A hundred percent sure. Intergenerational activities that are really important for both older and younger generation, but that's the way I'd actually at the geriatric psychiatrist.
[00:32:04] How our society, so ageist, ageism, which is so wrong. I mean, you know, the number of older people in the population is increasing. We all know that, right? Yes, it is. It is called silver tsunami, silver tsunami.
[00:32:27] So as if it's a disaster that is happening, that people are living into order rate, why is it a disaster? Because older people cost more money for healthcare, right? And so if you spend the money on older people, we don't have any money left for bringing up children. And that is pure and simple ageism, you know, with the COVID started.
[00:32:51] And at the beginning, you know, there were mostly reports of deaths in nursing homes. And then the question about keeping the children home, uh, set it up. Some politicians say, That instead of spending money on these nursing home, it does use that money for keeping the kids in the school, these older people in nursing homes, how much longer are they going to leave lie to be visiting those resources?
[00:33:21] Wow. Okay. Let's hope that person's not in office anymore. Wow. Yes, sir. I've been a number of other people taught and they actually continue to think along these lines, you often see subtle ageism in healthcare economics. They often say that the way in which you can calculate the value of life. And that is best partly how many years you are left.
[00:33:53] Right? It is so, so wrong, sort of wrong because if we have older people be at. Yeah, David will be healthier. Their healthcare costs will go down and they will help you and go generations become that's right. An invaluable resource. Absolutely. I saw, um, it must've been a video somewhere, a news article something couple of years ago where a group of people had merged a daycare center and, um, an assisted living facility, not quite a nursing home, but so there were the older grandparent generation helping to take care of the 2, 3, 4 year olds before they entered public school.
[00:34:41] And. So it was beautiful to watch everybody benefited. The little kids got extra attention from grownups who could pass along knowledge and wisdom and laughter and music and jokes and fun. And, and the older folks got to feel vital and meaningful and, and, and, and, and alive again. It's just, I think that that should be, that should be everywhere.
[00:35:04] We should mix daycare centers and assisted livings. Perfect. Okay. Absolutely. Absolutely. And there's actually a lot of research to support that. For example, there's one study in which retired older people. They had to spend 15 hours a week in a public elementary school for one year. Okay. Okay. Yeah. And so they agreed to do that, and there's another group of older people who didn't do that.
[00:35:32] It wasn't a very, it was a randomized control trial funded by MacArthur foundation. And so at the end of the year, they found that the kids were really happy. Their grades went through the roof. They were paid very well, older people, their physical health, improved mental health, improve cognitive function, improve the bio markers of age and stress, deacons or blood and improve.
[00:36:03] Wow. And, and look at, and take this hippocampus in the brain on MRI. Was it larger in this Holland years at the end of the study? So their brain sending the patrol, at least it doesn't show. Okay. And like, it does people. So if we're not doing anything, then we shame. But in the people who keep active in this way, by helping the kids, because they were happy, you know, the older people were happy, they felt wanted, they feel loved by the kids.
[00:36:37] Sure. And of course the kids feel low. So just like you said, this is a win-win situation. Yeah. That's great. I agree. I know when my, my mom was before her addiction got really bad and she was just depressed. I said to her, go volunteer in elementary school. Cause she loved little kids go volunteer in an elementary school.
[00:37:01] There's one like three blocks away and go once a week and go read them stories or take them to the library or, you know, help them with the art or something, whatever capacity, feed them lunch. I don't care what you do. And she refused. And I think it really could have helped her in a lot of ways. Because she just felt so lonely and, and purposeless, you know, and I think that would have given her some more meaning and some intrinsic sort of feeling of value that she had lost.
[00:37:34] I think you, you, you just accept terminology, which is purpose and meaning. Yeah. And that is research on that purpose and meaning, reap. So published a paper on that. But so when we are young in the twenties, you know, the beginning, we are sort of searching for meaning in life. We don't know whether to go into this direction, that direction, et cetera.
[00:37:58] Yeah. And, but you can choose, you know, what our profession whatever we do at, then we have family and then we grow and when we could become contented and the purpose we acquired, meaning in life Dan comes an age that we are forced to retire because of the society's needs or the physical health declines, and then certainly the purpose and that's where the depression starts.
[00:38:25] Right. And th that's what I can, what you are describing is exactly the solution where volunteering activity, cookie it, purpose and meaning in life is really helpful. Yeah. It's one of the reasons I started this podcast. I know, I mean, I'm a few quite a few years from retiring as a teacher, but I've been looking for ways to bring meaning in my life to be able to share this hard one.
[00:38:55] Should I say wisdom that I've gained over the last, you know, several decades of my life and, and I've been trying different things and some things worked and some things didn't feel right or whatever, but this, this I love. So I'm jazzed about this. It's cool. Feels great. Like you don't mind the hard work, you know, you don't mind the hours cause it just feels right.
[00:39:17] Like everything's vibing the right way, you know? Well, that's great. That's exactly right. I think we have an opportunity to do something that makes us happy and that helps other people, you know, what is better in life, 10 deck, right. Something we do that makes us happy and make helps other people. So that's exactly what you are doing.
[00:39:38] And that's what I also feel about this kind of research and restaurant. Yeah. It is a win-win situation need to, it brings a lot of meaning to your life and keeps you your cognitive abilities sharp and, and gives back to the world. So that works. That works great. So, so besides volunteering, what are other ways that people can cultivate increased wisdom in the room?
[00:40:06] Sure. So, as I said, there are different components to this instrument and then we need to look at sort of what competence we need to help him there. And so, so there are different strategies for different components. For example, let's say if you start with empathy and compassion, right. One you already mentioned is volunteering, right.
[00:40:29] Then other things also one can do. One is a gratitude diary or a gratitude journal. So before going to bed, read a couple of things that made you feel grateful because somebody helped you. Let's look at a couple of things that you kept make you feel proud that you did to help others. And you don't necessarily even have to write those things.
[00:40:52] You can talk to somebody about what you did. You can talk to your spouse or your friend or colleague, whatever it is. So, but if you do that, Then it becomes over sick and nature. And we get up in the morning thinking, what am I going to write or think about tonight? So let me do something to help. Right? So another is, just kindness and accepting what is called a sense of common humanity, which has vents.
[00:41:25] If somebody makes mistakes, the first tendency is to blame that person. Why did you prove that didn't, you know, that there's a better way of doing it, something like that. And you, of course, self-critical also, you know, why did I do that? So what is needed is accepting the fact that everybody makes mistakes.
[00:41:46] Everybody makes mistakes because you don't put someone who is poor. Right? Of course. So don't necessarily blame somebody because he or she made me. And like the don't blame yourself necessarily if you made a mistake. So that helps actually. So that kind of acceptance. And then also realizing that we have been through tough times, but we survived and will survive.
[00:42:16] And the best example of that, this will come as a surprise to many of the listeners, probably during the COVID era in this last year and a half of COVID order, people were clearly at a major disadvantage one because are higher risk of getting severe complications. They were more likely to be more likely to go into ICU, need winter later and more likely to.
[00:42:46] Right. Also because of the requirement for social isolation to split up older, people became even more isolated, unlike younger people, because younger people, they are their smart phones. They have the social media and so they could communicate. So the , as I said, we expected that we are going to have some major problem with depression, loneliness, social isolation in older people.
[00:43:18] You know what we found what'd you find what people found was the exact opposite. Really older people, older people had much less depression, anxiety, and stress than younger people. They'd already survived so many decades of things that they knew that it could still survive this. That's exactly right for people between 18 and 25 that never had anything like that.
[00:43:45] So it was kind of the end of the world for them. They didn't know how to handle it. And so they had actually many severe problems, depression, anxiety, stress, older people under there. And they say, oh, we have been through, I mean, we had been through war and drought and, economic depression and other percentages.
[00:44:03] We came out and we'll come out of this. True. So that realization also is a part of withdrawal that once you have that, that, that makes you feel better and that makes you self compassionate as less compassionate toward others. It makes a lot of sense. I've survived. All these other things. I'll survive this too, and it'll be fine.
[00:44:29] Okay. That's the only people that found solution, even though they didn't have technology, some of them learned some technology, et cetera. And so got my dad on soon and we got them on, we got them on weekly zoom calls with the whole family and we had Connecticut and New York and Florida and Colorado and Texas, like once a week, all of us.
[00:44:52] And we were in more contact during lockdown than we are normally because nobody had anything else to do. And everyone was super anxious about the whole lockdown thing and, and craving more connection. So we, I miss it really, because we're not doing that anymore. I hardly know what's going on with anyone.
[00:45:15] Yeah, yeah, yeah. It brought the world together in a way. And especially the families. Yeah. Physically, but psychologically. Yeah. Which I think is almost, if not more. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. One of the tricks is finding support and giving support. We must do both. We need support for ourselves when we are stressed out, but you also need to give support, you know, this will support us.
[00:45:48] And so, so, so that's about compassion, self compassion, uh, be some strategies for emotional regulation. Right? So my favorite example, so in California road, rage is common, right? People quit driven those Los Angeles highways. Yes. I know this. Right. So, you know, I'm going to my office, I'm a bit late. Somebody cuts in front of me and I'm so mad at that, you know, I start honking, cussing, blah, blah.
[00:46:24] You know, and following that so on. So, so how do I control that? I can't imagine you having road rage. Dr. Jess stay so calm and flexible, you know? So, so we're like teach us the first thing to do when that happens. He's actually think about why that person cut in front of you. I'm the, this much percentage, the jerk, Kevin, he really is.
[00:46:52] He is intentionally under the hand. Is it possible? That maybe there's a child on the backseat of that car and the child certainly had a seizure or certainly threw up or something like that. What would you do if you were driving, you were rush you're to go to the emergency room or something. Right. So if he was doing that and wife getting so mad at 10%, absolutely.
[00:47:20] I don't imagine somebody in the backseat having a seizure. I always imagined that the driver really has to pee, you know, and that was okay. Alright, so personalized toward you. But for some reason I have a percentage that, so one way sort of you reimagine the Morty on the part of the other person, you know, whether that was true motive or not, doesn't matter, but it calms you down.
[00:47:48] Another thing is distract increase the volume of the radio music you are listening to. Oh, then you don't spend time. And the third thing is labeled that you can say, okay, you know, I got mad at this person because I deserve it. Yeah, absolutely. But let, let me get over it then who cares about this person?
[00:48:07] You know, and I had this happened before I survived and I'm a quick to do that work. So, so this is sort of how to regulate your emotions. Uh, and again, Uh, road rage is just one example. Another example is when we lose those temper, we get so angry, so angry and most of the time, because we feel personally hurt emotionally by that other person.
[00:48:34] Right? So when you change that tint, that, that the person actually, it was totally impersonal. That makes us feel much better, right? Yeah. That they probably had something else going on in their own head and said what they said or did what they did inadvertently. Cause most people aren't malicious and they don't set out to hurt you.
[00:48:54] You just have to temper your feelings with your idea that someone else had something else going on besides you. Right. I think if we, if we think of ourselves as slightly less important in the grand scheme of things, then we're less likely to be offended by the things that other people do. I don't know, it works for me.
[00:49:15] Um, I don't ever get the road rage thing because I'm, I always listen to podcasts or audio books when I'm driving. And for me, if there's more traffic or it takes longer, it's just more I can listen to, you know, I get to listen to another chapter of the book instead of, so I'm there five minutes later, what's the difference?
[00:49:33] You know, it doesn't bother me. I'll stay in the slow lane. That's a great attitude. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's what it's about. That's what people need to practice consciously. I tell them that those who don't have that. Yeah, I agree. I agree.
[00:49:57] Wisdom, wisdom, wisdom. I mean, one thing you mentioned at the beginning about the society, that's something I stress actually that, you know, we talk about the pandemic of COVID.
[00:50:11] Right. But there has been a pandemic for the last 20 years. and social isolation. Yeah. So people don't realize that suicides have gone up by 33% in last 20 years. Yeah. Well, opioid related deaths increase 10 calls in the last month. One of them. Right, right, right. Yeah. And. The elevational I spend in the us drop two years in a row before COVID really yes, 20 15, 16, 16, 17
[00:50:55] loneliness and social isolation because they loneliness increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and also suicides opioid related deaths. That's right. So I mentioned that this is a behavioral pandemic, not a viral pandemic behavioral pandemic that is been going on for last 20 years. And it's a silent pandemic.
[00:51:23] People don't know that because it's not something you feel right. Cause they're isolated and lonely and they're not speaking up. Exactly. And it is not just that. It has actually biological impact on our physical health cognitive function. Is that wisdom is a good vaccine for loneliness. We have actually published several papers on that, showing that wisdom and loneliness going opposite directions, people who score high on wisdom, especially compassion.
[00:51:58] They're not lonely. And there's even biology involved in that. If you look at, if you do EEG or even microbiome, people who are lonely and people who are wise, they go in different directions. So what we need is this to increase wisdom in the population level. Yes. Because you really need that because honestly, the COVID will go away because make sense.
[00:52:28] But if the loneliness continues, they're going to have problems. So we need to find ways to get ourselves involved with other humans, to build a greater community within our own lives that not only brings meaning and, and all those biological, social, cognitive functions, but helps us live happier and longer and, and so on.
[00:52:54] That's exactly right. That is what is needed. And that is the sort of suicidal and it's people. We're we're social animals. You know, we, we can't survive well. Solitarily right. Second research has shown there's social connections have greater impact on health and longevity than smoking, drinking, sedentary, behavior, hypertension.
[00:53:24] Any of these traditional factors are less impact than social connections. Wow. So you can counteract some smoking by joining a car, joining a group, making friends, right? Exactly. Exactly. How do I have to edit this again? This is not just a field. Yeah. And it does not feel good. PV science, you know, it is a real biological science and studies have shown that they said impact on the biomarkers.
[00:53:56] It has impact on the functioning of the brain using MRI and other things. So she sees real hard science that supports it. And that's why we need interventions of this kind of that. That's why I can I compliment you because what you are doing is increasing compassion at the community. You know, there is some people are compassionate community moment in that started in Australia and New Zealand and UK.
[00:54:25] But you really need to do those things. We need to train younger people in compassion. Self-reflection emotional regulation. Yeah. You know, we, we only focus on the hard skills, reading, writing, arithmetic, chem engineering. We actually need economic components. Right? Exactly. We need to teach and reward people in how compassionate they are, how self-reflective they are, how emotionally regulated they are, how accepting of diverse perspectives there, because we need it as a society survivor.
[00:55:08] Yeah, it makes sense. That makes sense. I think one of the reasons that my dad at almost 82 was doing as well as he's doing, even with the bit of the dementia is because he's a joiner. He's always been a joiner. It is in a bridge club and he plays tennis a couple times a week and he's singing in a chorus, the geriatric chorus, and he's, you know, in this dramatic group and none of them can memorize lines anymore, but they, they hold up the script and they emote, you know, and they have their family and their friends come and they do a performance.
[00:55:45] And, you know, it keeps him active, keeps the, the, the brain cells firing and, and he loves it. He loves, it, loves it. It's great. And I think when he's in Florida and he has those things at his fingertips, I think he does better than when he's in New York, because although he's closer to his, his daughter's in New York, he doesn't have the same community as he has down south.
[00:56:13] So, Yeah. So he's with the COVID thing has missed some time down there, but what can you do,
[00:56:23] you know, better, better to go without the group and still be alive then, you know, you have to temper these things a little bit. Yeah. It's important to know. I mean, I think there are a lot of people who wonder what they're going to do when they retire. You know, I have had a, quite a few friends over the last few years retire from teaching and, you know, there's only so many wineries you can visit, you know, to do something.
[00:56:51] And and I don't know if enough people and whatever we can quantify as enough without judgment are. Looking for community-based social based things that they can do that not only is fun for them, but brings meaning to the lives and gives back to the community a bit. You know? I mean, that would be, that would be great.
[00:57:17] So I think we need to start forming some more clubs. Right? Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. I'm just put for everybody. I mean, I'm not going to, it has biologically impact. Again, things like the social connections, meditation, mindfulness, I mean, they actually improve of certain areas in the brain. They increase the white matter integrity to reduce the stress biomarkers.
[00:57:45] So again, as I said, this is not just feel-good TV science. It is hardcore science that shows that these things are good for our brain and body. Fabulous. Let's do them all now.
[00:58:02] Excellent. I think that everybody who's listening can think about the things in their own life that, they can add, you know, like go call a friend, go arrange a zoom call with your high school friends or with your work friends or with your sisters or whoever. And you know, if you can't get out to go someplace because you know, some of that is limited in various parts of the country, you know, you could go for a walk, you could go for swim, you could, you know, make a phone call if nothing else.
[00:58:31] And. I think that that would help, you know, like create clubs around books or a shared activity that you all like. There was somebody on your Facebook page, a group of 80, some odd year old women started a boogie board club in California. Like you could create a club around anything, just get together and do some stuff, some active things.
[00:58:55] And it's so important. It's absolutely so important for, for 20, some art years of my life. I sang with a local community chorus. And when I first joined, I was, how old was I? 32. And I was probably the youngest person in the chorus by more than 20 years. Well, maybe 15 years. And, and it's, it's, you know, it's aged and people have left and some people have come and I younger, a lot of younger people have joined, But it's wonderful to see older folks who still are passionate about music and still want to sing.
[00:59:36] And, you know, we do two or three concerts a year at a local high school. And, and we do some of the same pieces, you know, seasonally and lots of new things, depending on what the director wants to give us. But it's so much fun and music and performing it and singing it. It's just like lights up my brain and lights up my heart.
[00:59:56] And it's just a beautiful thing. So I challenge every one of you who are listening to find something that you love and just go grab your best friends and go do it no time. Like now, now like put down this podcast and go do it now, you know, unless you're driving and then wait and pull over and, and then do it now.
[01:00:18] That makes sense. Well, Dr. Jeff, this has been fabulous. I'm I'm motivated. I'm excited. And I hope everybody is as well. So thank you so much for your time. This has been fabulous. Thank you, Marcy. It was a pleasure to talk to you. And as I said, all right, I'm also really appreciative of what you do with your permission to heal.
[01:00:43] You do great work and that's really some example of wisdom in action in the community. Oh, I'm blushing now. Thank you so much. Thank you.