Where has my brain gone?

with Don Fraser
Fraser Farm Finance

Ruminations of an old fart!

It is clear that as we age our brain power seems to wane, and no more than in agriculture as we make a myriad of interconnecting decisions every day.

At 75 years old, I realise that I am not as sharp as I used to be. About two years ago I was out on a farm in the Hauraki Plains faced with the usual issues around ownership structures, debt and what to do next concerns. 

Normally, I could work out debt servicing ratios, production figures, etc in my head.

I had done it for decades, but when I looked inside my head, it was gone! I had to get the calculator on my mobile phone out, but it did not work that well either as it was not something I had had to use often. 

Mr Google tells me that as we age our brains shrink in volume, particularly in the frontal cortex. Memory decline also occurs with ageing and brain activation becomes more bilateral for memory tasks. There are protective factors though, which always include a healthy diet, low alcohol intake and regular exercise. It also seems the rate of decline possibly increases over the age of 70!

I used to ‘get-off’ on solving complex financial and structural issues in farming, and now I am happy playing with the grandchildren or listening to the birds in the trees. I now go to presentations and meetings, listen intently and then struggle to understand the detail, so I have learnt to take younger people with me who still have the sharper brains.

So, what does happen as we get older? It appears that the linkages in our brain start to drop off after years of overuse. On top of that put heart trouble and diabetes, health issues that seem to pervade our world and the brain is under constant pressure.

I got bad concussion playing social rugby at university. Concussions apparently affects the part of the brain that helps us recognise people, something I am absolutely hopeless at. So don’t be surprised if I don’t recognise you on occasion.

It feels that our brain, like our body seems to continually recede. I find that many farmers often take a ‘lesser role’ or ‘back seat’ as they age. It does seem like a natural process, but something we don’t talk about and find hard to accept.

We men particularly find growing older very difficult. We do not have well established coffee and social networks like the fairer sex. Lacking these social connections, it follows that we find the loss of mental agility daunting and frightening.

If it becomes a problem, there is help out there. We just need to learn to ask and look for it. I have discussed this many times previously – we men need to join social groups and talk more.

So, in summary it seems like our brain power recedes as we age. We find it harder to recall information and facts. We notice it but do not talk about it. We are no longer ‘sharp as a tack’ and we then get grumpy and resistant when we are reminded of it.

I guess we can therefore forgive ourselves for ‘wondering where our brain has gone.’

Disclaimer – these are the opinions of Don Fraser (an old fart).  Any decisions made should not be based on this article alone and appropriate professional assistance should be sought.

Don Fraser is the retired Principal of Fraser Farm Finance and was a consultant to the farming industry for many decades. You can contact him on: 021 777 675.


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