A recent article appeared in the New York Times entitled, ‘Older Really Can Mean Wiser.’ When I read the caption, ‘Research is catching up with the notion that, in some ways, people grow smarter with age’ it naturally caught my attention. I have been looking for the mental elixir of youth for some time!
Two post doctoral students from MIT and Harvard, Joshua Hartshorne and Laura Germine reviewed the scores from tens of thousands of cognitive tests taken by people of all ages and discovered that different mental abilities mature or ripen at different ages. For instance, short term memory – called fluid intelligence peaks in the 20s while social judgment may peak later in life. When you think about it that’s a huge change from what we have heard in the past. Not everything, in other words, is better when we are young.
These researchers concluded that although an ‘older brain moves more slowly than its younger self, it is just as accurate in many areas and MORE adept at reading other’s moods. They also found that older brains may be more knowledgeable in certain areas called crystallized intelligence such as vocabulary. Seems logical – the longer you live the more you are able to process and learn and the file cabinets in our brain holds more. So coming up with a name or specific information may take longer. Just remember it’s there and it will come if you give it time. Just say, ‘It will come to me’ rather than ‘I can’t remember’ since it gives your mind a positive expectation to fulfill.
There is a caveat to these research findings, of course. We need to continue to stretch and use our brains and not fall into the trap of watching 7 1/2 hours of T.V. daily (the average found in a recent survey). In the 1970’s it was referred to as the boob tube for good reason.
The conclusion of the study was that although the older brain moves more slowly than its younger self it is just as accurate in many areas and more adept at reading people’s moods. Navigating tricky interpersonal issues seems to be an area of strength for the older brain. That makes sense to me…when you have lived through decades of challenges between employees or even family members you just get good at it! It’s a practice makes perfect sort of thing.
The research done by Hartshorne and Germine demonstrates that every age offers both strengths to share and opportunities for growth. The wise among us learn to utilize the ideas and perspectives from various age groups. It creates a deeper understanding of the real issues and possible solutions. Those of us who had the chance to use cross functional teams to solve problems in an organization could attest to the fact that differences in people’s backgrounds and experiences created unique and valued ideas for improvement. As you would guess, the same idea works for families. It takes all of us, working together, to make the world a little better place.
Have a great few days!