Science and medicine can do a lot to keep us young. They can replace hips, mend heart valves, and concoct medicine that fixes all kinds of ailments. But what if a potent cure for the general aches and pains of aging was something a lot simpler than that?and virtually free as well? According to some research, the key to turning back the clock might lie in doing exactly that.
The idea comes from a seemingly simple experiment that was done back in 1981. As The New York Times reports, a small group of men in their seventies signed up for a five-day getaway. They didn’t go to a fancy spa or resort. Instead, they went back in time, straight to 1959.
They didn’t time-travel, of course. But they did immerse themselves in a setting that had been carefully designed to recreate the year 1959 right down to the magazines, radio, and TV shows. The experiment took them back to the days of their youth, an environment that had “no mirrors, no modern-day clothing, no photos except portraits of their much younger selves.”
In generally good health, the men were first tested on general functions that decline with age; things like hearing and vision, memory, and dexterity. The results were astounding. At the end of five days, “they were suppler, showed greater manual dexterity, and sat taller.” Even more remarkable, their eyesight got better.
The results were no fluke. In 2010 the BBC did a similar experiment and the results were just as good. That time, a participant “who had rolled up in a wheelchair, walked out with a cane.”
But can it really be that simple? Do we just have to redecorate our houses and watch I Love Lucy reruns to shake off the general decline of aging?
In the short term, yes. The mind truly is a powerful tool. And as this Berkeley Wellness article notes, there’s a clear, proven connection between the mind and our physical bodies. Simply changing your position or stance can have a measurable effect on hormones.
The only problem is that, eventually, people would have to leave that environment. They would have to re-emerge into the modern world to do their bank and shopping or to visit friends. And as that modern environment continues to progress?with new technology, different cars and clothing?the effects on re-entry would be more pronounced each time.
Potentially, the seniors who had created an idealized environment from long ago would experience negative effects when they had to confront the real world. They might even begin to dread it, with high blood pressure and other physical changes taking place. Changes that might outweigh the benefits of remaining (psychologically, at least) in the 1940s or ?50s.
The research is fascinating, and it definitely sheds a light on the still-unknown depths of the connection between body and mind. But in the long run there might be more benefit to leaving that past behind. To engaging with the modern world by volunteering, making new friends, and keeping yourself fit with both mental and physical activity.
So if You’re tempted to find some lamps and wallpaper to recapture your youth, you might want to check out the latest modern gadgets at the mall. It could just keep you young at heart.
S.D. Livingston is the author and creator of the Madeline M. Mystery Series for kids, as well as several books for older readers. Visit her website for information on her writing.