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OLDER AND DUMBER?

Just because you’re older, does that mean you’re smarter than you used to be or smarter than the less aged around you? Is there really a higher standard of intelligence for people as they get older, begging the question: Are you smarter than a 50 year old?

When I was young, I was raised to believe that everyone older than me knew better. As I progressed through high school, I began to question this wisdom. By the time I was five years into my career, I had discovered with great certainty that this had just been a guise to get me to listen to my elders.

So why is it that people just don’t automatically get smarter with age? Of course, there are factors like genetics and education. But I’m talking about something more innate than that. Why is it that some people, even those who appear to be quite knowledgeable when they’re young, just reach a point where they quit growing and eventually let the world (and their relevance) pass them by?

I was fortunate enough to have a father who, in his sixties, embraced personal computers—right when they were first being marketed to the public. He had no need to learn about computers, so why did he? Because he “didn’t want to be left behind.” He loved to travel. He started listening to self-help talk shows in the 80s, and I could see him adapting his beliefs until he died at the age of 82.

And he never graduated from high school. Yet, he knew how to do so many things—fix cars, converse about a variety of topics, and with the help of his sons, he even built his own house. He used to say, “If somebody else can do it, so can I?” And as long as libraries were free, he didn’t understand why people couldn’t educate themselves.

On the flip side, I’ve seen people, good people, raise their families, retire from their careers, and cross what can only be viewed as their personal finish lines. They don’t try anything new or expose themselves to new ideas. They get left behind….particularly in a world that changes as fast as ours.

It’s far too easy as we age to take on the attitude that we’ve tried everything already and we know what we like so we’re sticking with what works. I love watching the Brain Fitness infomercials where they explain that change is what keeps the pathways in the brain active and expanding. Trying something new or moving to a new city may be the secret to keeping our brains forever young.

Of course, there is something to be said for the wisdom of aging and recognizing what works. I’m not discounting this. In fact, I try to use it everyday to save me time and aggravation. And one hopes that as we age, we have accumulated bits of information relevant to our businesses, relationships and lives that we can apply and share with others. It’s just that, given the state of change, it’s important to recognize that things are changing, and what worked twenty years ago for us may not work today.

It’s important to strike a balance between knowing what we know and being open to what we can learn from others around us, no matter how much younger they may be. In fact, therein may lie the true wisdom of age—the ability to listen. (I think I’m still working on this one!)

How about you? What are some of the traps that you think make people dumber as they get older? What new ideas or activities have you embraced post-50 to keep relevant?

 

February 14, 2011 Posted by | age and intelligence, baby boomer information, Healthy Aging, over 50, Successful Aging | , , , , | Leave a comment