old people and monkeys

We have been very busy in the gardens and energy is low for other things, so a quick post today.  Some scientists studying monkeys report that older monkeys, similarly to older people, withdraw from some social interactions.  They (we) are still observant, still permit some grooming activities (well, the monkeys do), less interested in toys, and generally choose to participate less.  Interesting enough and I am glad to know it, being a proudly grumpy older gentleman myself since the age of 5 years old when I idolized Gabby Hayes.

And I am particularly grumpy about the way the phenomena were talked about in this NYT story.  For example, the reporter writes, “How human behavior changes as we age could therefore have some biological origins.”  I beg your pardon but how our behavior changes as we age is necessarily biological in origin.  Or how about this nugget:  evidently the “dominant psychological theory” to explain our behavioral changes is that old people become more choosy “in order to maximize the use of the time we have left with death in sight.”  Have these people never visited nursing and retirement homes?  Or Las Vegas? Visited other countries where old folks work out of necessity (and maybe are accorded more respect with a stronger family system), or seen any poverty because the elders being less productive are abandoned by modern society?  ‘Maximize’ does not exactly capture the phenomena here, because it makes it sound as if we choose so much more than we really do.  One researcher says that our behaviors that seem deliberative “might be more similar to our primate ancestors than we might think,” the implication that our primate friends are not deliberative and choosy.  Once again we assert the specialness of our own kind in another instance of anthropodenial.  Ouch!

The researcher does, in a triumph of reality orientation, say that maybe monkeys and humans lose stamina with age (that pesky biological thing again) and that dealing with relationships that are ambivalent or negative is not worth the trouble.  Ah, there you go.  Now travel on.

bonobo2

Should I maximize my time left by playing golf, throwing dice in craps or watching TV? I’ll think about it on a long, unspoiled walk with a friend (thanks, Mark Twain)

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