Q&A: Can older people change?

Do you think it's too late once you past a certain age to be able to change? Or is it more a matter of a "damaged beyond repair" type situation, where once you've been conditioned a certain way for so long it's irreversible. How do you feel about that?

It has been shown in psychological studies (Dr. Robert Sapolsky's, for one) that people get less open to new ideas as they grow older, as demonstrated by older people's tendency to stick with the music they grew up with, lack of desire to try new foods, fashions, or whatever. 

Further, Dr. Sapolsky suggests that this can be turned around to say, rather than being unable to change, perhaps older people simply like things they are familiar with. They are starting to see the end of their lives looming ahead, and being surrounded with the familiar can imbue in them a sense of security.

So there are legitimate reasons why old people resist change, but change is not impossible.

As Dr. Dean Simonton found in his research, the key to new openness and new neural growth is changing the focus of your learning. Instead of tramping down the same brain pathways, you launch out into to new realms of interest, learning, and study, prompting a bountiful growth of neurons. This can happen at any age, barring injury or disease.

Nevertheless, current and ex-FGA members face additional challenges. It's a huge psychological jolt for older folks to look back and admit that years of their lives were wasted in nonsense that hurt themselves and those they love the most, their kids. I think a lot of people protect their psyches from that - it's just too much for them. Too difficult and painful.

In order to reach that place of being able to admit fault, though, the indoctrination has to stop. Those affected have to distance themselves from the cult and all its teachings, and stop trudging down the same rutted brain paths. Ex-members that say they are still Christians and blithely claim that "everything happens for a reason," or "God looks at my heart," as they smile knowingly (and perhaps condescendingly) at you, well, if they cling to that, they're not going to change. They see no need to admit fault because "everything is part of God's plan." 

It may not be easy, but if people can face their mistakes and strive to learn new things, they can change.

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