Thursday, January 10, 2008

Grow smarter with age

Youth is the period when you are at the peak of your physical abilities, but the same is not true of mental abilities. The older you get, the smarter you become, says a study by psychologist Lars Larsen of Denmark’s University of Aarhus. The report is based on a survey involving 4,300 US servicemen, who took intelligence tests at the age of 20, and took it again 20 years later. The two sets of results showed that mathematical skills did not come down with age and verbal skills actually improved drastically. Experts support the findings of the research, saying that older people are definitely wiser.

Young people are often restless and are unable to invest sustained efforts in a task. "They may get bored easily, may not have definite and concrete goals and are unable to persist through difficulties," says Dr Narendra Kinger, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, Aashraya Clinic, Mumbai. As a result, even if they are smarter than an older individual, they may underperform or perform inconsistently. In a similar situation, an older person who is more adjusted in terms of personality may outperform younger individuals. He adds that youngsters are more creative, but older people have a problem solving approach.

Verbal skills may improve with age as the person has encountered various situations in life and has dealt with them through verbal reasoning.

Coming to geriatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s, dementia or senility, these problems only affect a small percentage of the over 60 population, says Srikanth Acharya, consultant psychologist and hypnotherapist, KIMS Hospital. "The general belief is that mental abilities are at their best in the 18-30 age group," he says. "In fact, scientists believed that after 22, the brain is not receptive to new information. But I would say that there is unlimited space in the memory and the mind is free of boundaries, so you keep learning new things throughout life," he adds.

Dr Kinger sums up, "Youth is wasted on the young because it may be spent on frivolous and immature pursuits, but maturity also brings a certain amount of cynicism. Smartness in terms of personality issues and dynamics helps older people function better and achieve in a shorter time what the young may take twice the amount of time to do."