Aging Does Not Automatically Degrade Decision Making Skills

An aspect of ageism is how many people seem to believe that seniors make poorer decisions as soon as they begin to age.

According to a recent study described in a Health Day article at Medline Plus, older adults performed decision-making tasks just as well if not better than younger people. Participants ranged from age 18 to age 82. The article describing the research appeared in the September 28, 2013 issue of Psychology and Aging.

Over the course of the study researchers examined responses to questions from more than 600 people, describing how they go about making decisions that required a knowledge of math skills, vocabulary, risk-taking. and financial understanding. Two types of cognitive abilities, fluid intelligence (quickness) and crystalized intelligence (accumulated knowledge) were identified.             

The journal article is not freely available, but according to the research abstract, while older individuals sometimes took more time to reach a conclusion, study participants’ “…greater crystalized intelligence offset their lower levels of fluid intelligence.”  Adult children may want to avoid misconceptions and consider that parents who are slow to consider and solve problems may well, in the end, make good decisions.

Because the participants in the study range in age from 18 to 82, the results do not address decision-making by adults who are older than 82 — an age when cognitive skills may well decline.

While the published article is not available on the journal’s website, we can read the original paper by study author, Assistant Professor Ye Li, now at the University of California, Riverside.

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