It’s all about love | Photo by Candida Performa via Wikimedia Commons
I never thought of asking the question until now because often, what comes to mind about the senior population are their countless health issues. Some are walking pharmacies with the medications they are on to help them function. This doesn’t conjure up a romantic vision. We associate falling in love with the vigorousness and libido of youth, the energy and drive associated with romantic love may simply not be there anymore. What’s left of life is counting calorie intake, blood sugar level, cholesterol, blood pressure, and on and on with an endless list of things one can’t eat or do. These are things that kill sexual desires, cutting off the fuel that fires up the flames of love. When I encountered Nina, a 70 or so year-old, well-dressed, articulate, energetic woman some years ago, she changed my opinion about falling in love later in life.
“She said she felt like she was reborn and young again. She was surprised and never imagined she would fall in love again. She was surprised and never imagined she would fall in love again.”
She was a guest in my previous place of work, and I was responsible for attending to her needs as a foreign scholar in our training agency. Once she had settled down and got comfortable, she started sharing bits and pieces of her life with me.
Finally, she told me she missed her lover, having been away from him for a while now and for the first time. Nina, a widow for several years, was resigned to live out her final years alone until she met her current love. He was a widower and a highly respected, well-placed senior government official. Like her, he was in his 70’s and still serving the government. She was beaming like a young girl as she recalled how they met, became friends, and finally fell in love. And to add a touch of conspiratorial flair to the love affair, she told me they had to hide the relationship for fear their children would condemn them as adulterers. She said she felt like she was reborn and young again. She was surprised and never imagined she would fall in love again. She asked me to read a collection of poems she wrote while away from her paramour.
She wrote the poems in Pilipino and explained that she could better express her innermost feelings in her native tongue. I read her poems with great interest. She put into unvarnished words her true feelings for her man unabashed, without a hint of reservation like a young girl falling in love for the first time. With only the poems to go by, one wouldn’t suspect an elderly woman wrote them. The reckless abandon to love that’s so common among young lovers was discernible in her writing.
“I believe the neurochemical processes occurring in the brain of a person “in love,” like Nina, is similar to a sluggish computer hard at work that has been refreshed. What better way to refresh an old brain than falling in love again? As corny as it may sound, love never grows old, and though the capacity is always there, the flesh may wither away.”
If we thought of emotions as neurochemical processes occurring in the brain mediated by neurotransmitters, we could surely say that Nina’s brain still produced an ample supply of them. During her stay with us as a guest, she was enthusiastic and was able to handle the demands of the hectic daily schedule she was put in without the slightest complaint. Since her daily schedule was somewhat unpredictable, she showed none of the rigidity of attitude so common among older people who are set in their ways. Instead, she was amazingly flexible and had the “come what may” attitude in navigating the training program she was in.
It makes me wonder if the state of being in love changes the brain and refreshes a person’s attitude and perspective into having a brighter outlook. This is a manifestation of the neuroplasticity of the brain, its ability to regenerate regardless of a person’s age. I believe the neurochemical processes occurring in the brain of a person “in love,” like Nina, is similar to a sluggish computer hard at work that has been refreshed. What better way to refresh an old brain than falling in love again? As corny as it may sound, love never grows old, and though the capacity is always there, the flesh may wither away.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.