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Do you get Smarter with Age?

Yes, as a matter of fact you do.

A study confirmed that elders are able to solve larger problems easier than their young adult counterparts.

Years ago (in 2011), a group of researchers from the University of Texas and Texas A&M University conducted two tests for young adults (20s and 30s) and seniors (60-80s). The first test was comprised of short-term problems while the second test was composed of long-term problems.

While the younger adults generally tested better in the first set of problems, they were unanimously worse at the long-term problems. Although fascinating and a boost of confidence for seniors, the question became why? It’s especially pertinent considering that our bodies break down and our brains deteriorate as we age, so what happened?

Professors determined that it’s a combination of things:

  1. The Digital Age
  2. Ventral Striatum Deterioration

The Digital Age and Immediate Rewards

Unsurprisingly, the younger the subjects, the more ingrained in technology they are. Technology, as we’re all well aware at this point, is EXTREMELY immediate. People used to have to wait for movies and videos to load… now you can stream them live.

The current generation lives in a world of immediate rewards and this is as gratifying as it is habit-forming – enter the Ventral Striatum. The ventral striatum is a part of the brain associated with those two things: habit formation and immediate gratification. As we age however, the ventral striatum deteriorates – now here’s where it gets interesting. To compensate for the deterioration, we depend on the prefrontal cortex which controls rational and deliberate thought!

Of course elders were better at long-term goals, the concept of immediate rewards is waning! The study looks as though it had 100 participants 50/50, so it should be taken with a grain of salt, but the science and reasoning is sound.

Listen to your Elders

It’s not always easy to listen to our elders, but their advice can go a long way for our (and especially our children’s) futures. Frankly, it sounds like the parents shouldn’t be telling the kids to go to college, but the elders ought to – they may be more convincing.

The main thing is, with our elderly parents, they never outgrow the role of parent and – to a degree – we never outgrow the role of child. No doubt they made mistakes, but we need to view mistakes as lessons to see how much they’ve grown – as you’ve grown/changed.

As the study shows, the habit-forming part of our brain deteriorates as we age, and this is a good thing. Habits can be more than repeated actions, they can be repeated thoughts. Don’t patronize your loved ones by thinking of them the same way you always have. Let them grow as your thoughts do.

2015-06-16T21:23:11+00:00