The older brain’s broadband advantage

That maddening “senior moment” when the topic at hand slips away and you assume your brains are leaking out along with it?  According to a growing number of studies, this gloomy assessment is wrong-headed.  Instead, older brains are sifting through the store of information accumulated over a lifetime, filtering, placing information in context —  and often coming up with a better answer or solution than younger respondents. Psychology professor Jacqui Smith sums up the result of these mental processes in a word: wisdom. “These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is,” she says. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”

Comments

i'll buy this . . . but sometimes doesn't it seem as if the boomer generation is so obsessed with itself that it is now trying to re-define all of life's metrics so that no matter how you slice it . . . it's better to be a boomer?

I agree that boomers —  the "don't trust anyone over 30" generation — will continue to redefine aging. Some of those efforts will be misguided, even delusory. But there’s authentic value in rejecting ageist stereotypes and coming up with our own. For example, yesterday I was transcribing an interview with Betty Soskind, an 86-year-old National Park Service ranger. She was climbing up a rocky hillside in Sedona, Arizona, until she overheard an older woman describe being frozen in fear, unable to go further and scared to descend. Soskind stopped in her tracks. “All of a sudden I identified not with my friend, who was scrambling up the incline and who was 20 years younger, but with the bunch of elders that was standing nearby.” The lesson, she points out, is to withhold from others the power to define us; to insist on continuing to define ourselves. Soskind has a good model: “My mother was still walking around in 5” heels when she was 95, still going shopping every Saturday afternoon, because she didn’t place that kind of limitation on herself.”