Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/793

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THE ART OF PROLONGING LIFE.

pation of some kind is absolutely necessary; it is a great mistake to suppose that idleness is conducive to longevity. It is at all times better to wear out than to rust out, and the latter process is apt to be speedily accomplished. Every one must have met with individuals who, while fully occupied till sixty or even seventy years of age, remained hale and strong, but aged with marvelous rapidity after relinquishing work, a change in their mental condition becoming especially prominent. There is an obvious lesson to be learned from such instances, but certain qualifications are necessary in order to apply it properly. With regard to mental activity, there is abundant evidence that the more the intellectual faculties are exercised the greater the probability of their lasting. They often become stronger after the vital force has passed its culminating point; and this retention of mental power is the true compensation for the decline in bodily strength. Did space permit, many illustrations could be adduced to show that the power of the mind can be preserved almost unimpaired to the most advanced age. Even memory, the failure of which is sometimes regarded as a necessary concomitant of old age, is not infrequently preserved almost up to the end of life. All persons of middle age should take special pains to keep the faculties and energies of the mind in a vigorous condition; they should not simply drift on in a hap-hazard fashion, but should seek and find pleasure in the attainment of definite objects. Even if the mind has not been especially cultivated, or received any decided bent, there is at the present day no lack of subjects on which it can be agreeably and profitably exercised. Many sciences which, twenty or thirty years ago, were accessible only to the few, and wore at best a somewhat uninviting garb, have been rendered not merely intelligible but even attractive to the many; and in the domain of general literature the difficulty of making a choice among the host of allurements is the only ground for complaint. To increase the taste for these and kindred subjects is worth a considerable effort, if such be necessary; but the appetite will generally come with the eating. The possession of some reasonable hobby which can be cultivated indoors is a great advantage in old age, and there are many pursuits of this character besides those connected with literature and science. Talleyrand laid great stress on a knowledge of whist as indispensable to a happy old age, and doubtless to many old people that particular game affords not only recreation but a pleasant exercise to the mind. It is, however, an unworthy substitute for higher objects, and should be regarded only as an amusement and not as an occupation.

Whatever be the sphere of mental activity, no kind of strain must be put upon the mind by a person who has reached sixty-five or seventy years. The feeling that mental power is less than