Outwitting the Grim Reaper

Some evolutionary biologists say that after we pass reproductive age, nature, like a cat who’s been fed, is done with us. The bodily systems that thrived and repaired themselves to ensure that we pass on healthy genes cease to function well and leave us to slink to the finish line the best we can. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, author of this year’s Successful Aging, says “that’s not an unreasonable interpretation,” but he doesn’t settle for the view that aging after 40 is a long and listless mosey to the grave.

Levitin, 62, emeritus professor of psychology and neuroscience at McGill University, has lit up readers’ minds with his books on the joys of music, This Is Your Brain on Music and The World in Six Songs. But unlike an aging rocker playing his hits on an oldies tour, Levitin has remained fresh as a writer on the brain, exploring, in The Organized Mind, how to navigate our way through information overload to sane shores. In Successful Aging he details the effects of aging on this too solid flesh, from cell function to motor actions to sleep patterns, and prescribes ways of living to mute the insults of growing old.

Levitin nicely articulated his insights into better aging and living in our interview. After I transcribed our lively talk, I decided to

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