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Susan Pinker’s Ted Talk

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Dan Wick

Extra Credit Assignment

GERO 380


        After reviewing Susan Pinker’s TED Talk regarding the “secret to living longer” it became apparent the amount of misconceptions our society as a collective has on it’s approach towards life. Pinker proses her conclusion with an initial fact that in “the developed world women live 6-8 years longer than man” and that “men in rich countries are two times likely to die at any age” (Pinker.) Yet how can this be if in such affluent nations with medical care that men are dying at such higher rates? Pinker tests this question by traveling to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia in which there are “six times as many centenarians as the mainland and ten times as many as North America” ( Pinker discovered that 75% of lifestyle longevity is based on lifestyle decisions and among Sardinians their density of homes put an “emphasis on close personal relationships face-to-face interactions” (Pinker). She later goes on to cite numerous personal anecdotes about local Sardinians who disprove the myths circulating a singular way to age and proclaims it is the merely one’s “close relationships” and “social integration” (Pinker). According to Susan Pinker, “social isolation is the public health risk of our time” and that throughout the world “one-third of the population say they have 2 or fewer people to lean on” (Pinker). Following her examples of Sardinians, Pinker then references a study conducted by Brigham Young University scholars which recorded all lifestyle aspects of the participant’s day to day decisions for seven years. The results reaffirm the previous statement involving society’s misconceptions of life as they show that typically emphasized habits such as exercise, sobriety, and diet compare very little to the crucial importance that “close relationships” and “societal integration” has on one’s longevity. The Sardinians were able to surpass the age of 100 because they were surrounded by people and never left to live solitary lives. In alignment with Pinker’s Sardinia observation that grouchy men can live past 100 too, is is the weak and strong bonds that individuals interact in every day that propels longevity as well as invigorates areas of the brain associated with tension, emotional EQ, reward, etc. Pinker furthers upon this notion and

Highlights a brain MRI comparison between those who received a recorded visual/audio and those who witness first hand in person. To no shock those who received firsthand exposure registered higher levels of brain activity than those who did not. Pinker’s last and possibly most striking example is that of the female Baboon and how those studied which exhibited exposure to a “core group” of friends, specifically over 3, were most likely to life longer, have lower cortisol levels, and have more babies. As observed in nature, the simple utilization of “close” relationships” and high “societal integration” can make or break lives. Pinker concludes by providing the audience the fact that there are the “lowest rates for dementia among those who engage socially” and the assertion that “building your village and sustaining it is a matter of life and death” (Pinker).

        Furthermore, in parallel with Pinker’s argument we read in Chapter 10 of our textbook that the “three primary economic conditions that profoundly shape older adults’ well-being, roles, and activities: retirement, employment/unemployment, and social class” (Pearson Chp. 10). Through this economic lens we can further view the fundamental imperative that older adults maintain as much involvement among their daily lives possibly attainable. Whether it be through employment, volunteering, recreational activities, spiritual activities, etc. the take away remains the same that those who can source “weak and strong bonds” from their daily life are better integrated and therefore live longer. Yet most times this is easier said than done. Take for example the factory worker seeking retirement, the potentially physically ailed, or just a disconnected soul; all of these instances happen more frequently each and every day. To these individuals I say look at Pinker’s example of the Sardinian niece who took immense gratitude in being able to care for her elder. Through actively fostering all bonds as well as seeking to interact face-to-face she was able to truly love her responsibilities and ultimately her life as a whole. But for those of us who aren’t as culturally inclined or are taken away by our own personal distractions, what can we do to help participate and enjoy our own “meaningful lives.”



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