Good News: Wisdom May Trump Youthful Enthusiasm

For the growing numbers approaching their golden years, the good news is: it’s not all downhill. When it comes to enjoying your life and living it well, wisdom trumps youthful enthusiasm. Neuroscientific research shows that young people may be quicker to respond to questions than their elders. But while they may retrieve information quickly, their responses often lack nuance or miss the big picture.

In a recent New York Times article, Phyllis Korkki reports on a study supporting this view: “While younger people were faster in tests of cognitive performance, older people showed ‘greater sensitivity to fine-grained differences,’ the study found.”

Most neuroscientists agree. In his book The Wisdom Paradox, Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, Professor of Neurology at New York University School of Medicine, identifies wisdom as a major benefit of growing older. And Dr. Monika Ardelt, Professor of Sociology at the University of Florida, and author of How Wise People Cope with Crises and Obstacles, includes wisdom as a predictor of subjective well-being.

Says Ardelt of the wise elderly she studied: “They perceived the past with gratitude, tried to be of service in the present, and were aware of the responsibility they had towards the future.” In fact, according to Geriatric Psychiatric Nurse Clinician Joanne C. Giblin, the elderly can choose wisdom over despair. If wisdom is a choice, perhaps it’s all a matter of attitude. Let’s not worry about being over the hill … let’s focus on the fact that when we arrive, we’ve reached a better vantage point.

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