ADAMCZYK: The immersion method

Ed Adamczyk

A medical theory about brain deterioration, popular in the 2010s, referred to “superaging” as a way to defeat Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, or at least limit that approach to senior living which includes an inability to recall the names of old sitcom actors or girlfriends, confusion in the damndest situations and a general loss of the label of “mentally sharp” when your kids are talking about you.

The theory suggests that working the brain is the way to keep it operating, and working it hard. Merely doing the newspaper crossword puzzle in the morning and watching “Jeopardy!” at night won’t cut it. Learn a new language. Go deep into a favorite subject – like music, beyond turning on the radio; learn to play it on an instrument, study it so that you know why Beethoven or Eddie Van Halen did this instead of that. Fall into something, and fall into it seriously, the way you once did about sports or fashion or rebuilding a Plymouth when you were younger.

If it sounds like development of expertise, instead or mere interest, that’s exactly what it apparently is. Do that and in your 80s, you’ll be outwitting your grandchildren, who’ll wish you’d start behaving like you’re getting old.

With social distancing still in vogue, the Rochester Baseball Historical Society presents more-or-less monthly meetings via a remarkable computer appliance called Zoom, and one I recently saw – or attended, I dunno – demonstrates the point of superaging. Granted, this organization trades in baseball, specifically baseball as it has been played in Rochester, and while it could be argued that their idea of history is more like a stroll down memory lane, the presentation demonstrated how finely tuned a person’s brain can be when it concentrates on a rich and singular topic.

This bunch skews older, and that may be self-evident. Who cares most about history, any category of it, than those who have made a little of their own? So we gathered online, a row of men and a few women on the screen. The lack of hair and the abundance of baseball caps to disguise it were evident.

The evening’s topic was two Rochester Red Wings teams which, in 1964 and 1974, produced championships. The guest speakers were Max Robertson and David Parlet, who were the batboys on those respective teams. They are no longer batboys, of course, and have the hairlines, and in Robertson’s case the beard and baseball cap, to prove it. The memories poured like margaritas on a hot summer night, and did not stop for 90 minutes.

Needless to say, a gathering like this need not be about baseball. The worlds of politics, the string quartet or the military can easily yield similar results – some things in life simply carry a lot of freight with them. But there we were, isolated by distance but still carrying on as though we were by a camp fire – the “hot stove,” they call it in baseball. Stories led to more stories. Members could be seen on-screen nodding their heads in agreement when some arcane point about a long-demolished stadium was mentioned. My own involvement with the sport centers on the team in Buffalo, but it felt comfortable, and comforting, to be in this circle.

I know little about what these folks do when not going online to commune over details of history, but these might be the superagers about which medical researchers write. However old you are, you have memories. These people keep them not only fresh but refreshed. They study and explore an element of their lives, namely their association with one baseball team in one city in one lifetime.

It helps that baseball offers a new chapter to the story, every year on Opening Day, whenever that is in 2021. It helps that they found like-minded people, easily accessible. It helps that they all think a story about players on the bench, drawing a box on the floor of about five square feet in tobacco spit and sunflower seeds, then attempting to fill in the box, during the course of the game, with the aforementioned spit and seeds, is funny.

All people are either old or getting that way. Time seems to be in a straight line and not cyclical, and keeping the brain active seems a manifest truth. Yet we all seem to know someone of some sort of prominence involving mental acuity who has deteriorated intellectually.

We also know of those whose lights have not dimmed, and I want to be one of them. I think I’ll continue hanging out with these baseball mavens involved in something they care about. Immersing in it.

Contact Ed Adamczyk at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.

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