Curiosity helps you to age well

My children were reared on wisdom from two books.
“Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care” was a “must read” for parents in the 1950s and ’60s.
Benjamin Spock addressed every conceivable childhood problem, and his book was translated into 39 languages and sold more than 50 million copies.
It was second in sales only to the Bible.
But just as important to me was “Infant and Child in the Culture of Today,” written by Arnold Gesell and Frances Ilg.
Born in 1880, Gesell was a pioneer in the study of child development. In 1906, he received a doctorate in psychology from Clark University. Nine years later, he earned a medical degree from Yale University, then stayed on to teach there.
For 40 years, Gesell and his co-workers researched child development. First at Yale, then later at an institute that bears his name–the Gesell Institute of New Haven, Conn.
Gesell was a prolific writer and his books reflect his philosophy that children develop in a patterned and predictable way, and it is important that parents understand the stages of growth.
His books do not tell you how to raise your child. They simply tell you what to expect at two years, five years, and nine years.
As a result of his work, parents finally understood the “Terrible Twos” and “Trusting Threes,” the “Frustrating Fours” and “Fascinating Fives,” the “Sociable Sixes” and “Noisy Nines.”
As a parent, I internalized his values. Thus, when my four-year-old son peppered me with questions, I knew it was because he was in the “Frustrating Fours” stage.
Still I complained, “I wish he wouldn’t ask so many questions.”
What makes fire burn? How do plants grow? Do birds have noses? How do bees make honey? A four-year-old can go on and on.
?Everyone knows that children have a natural curiosity and interest in figuring out how things work. What most people don’t know is that curiosity continues as you age.
Researchers at the U.S. National Institute on Aging found the degree of curiosity to be about the same for young, middle-aged, and older adults.
Of course, there are differences in the degree of curiosity in people of all ages. But the study found that people who were curious as young adults continued to be quite curious as they grew older.
By contrast, young people who lacked curiosity also lacked curiosity as they aged.
More interesting is the fact that older adults who score high on the characteristic of curiosity live longer than those who score low on this characteristic. Furthermore, older people with a high level of curiosity are more likely to have good mental health.
Curiosity and creativity helps transform older people into seemingly younger ones, says George Vaillant in his book, “Aging Well.”
So if you want to live long and well, ask questions. Ask people about their lives and their interests. Read voraciously. Watch biographies on the Arts and Entertainment channel.
Tour a glass-blowing studio. Take a class.
Pretend you are in the “Frustrating Fours” and be curious about everything. Being curious will make you interesting to be around.
And at the same time, it will help you age well.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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