Do we truly gain wisdom with age, or is this something we tell ourselves to offset the inevitable signs of growing older?
According to an article in The New York Times Education Blog, there’s increasing evidence that what I might term “wisdom” is a demonstrable aspect of growing older, and all the more so, when we’ve benefited from higher education.
What do you think? Do you believe that college – the fact of having attended – can influence your aging process many decades later? If not formal higher education, what about ongoing learning that you undertake yourself?
Apparently, all of the above helps maintain our brain function as the years pass.
The article, “A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond,” recounts a story of problem-solving that is so wildly simple – and clever – that I had to laugh. Do read the article, but so as not to leave you hanging, a couple in their 70s finds themselves stranded without a ride in a snowstorm, and the duo comes up with a brilliant solution to their transportation problem.
The Aging Brain Benefits from Mental Exercise
The gist of the article is this: using our brains in specific fashion, even early in life, keeps them tuned for our older years. Moreover, with experience we gain cross-functional skills that can be of assistance with problem-solving, as in the story mentioned above.
As to the evidence, plenty is cited. But why is it we’re bombarded by so much conflicting information? We’re also told that cognitive decline begins earlier than we once expected, even as popular culture nudges us to tuck and tidy our exteriors so they appear younger.
Where do we focus? The aging brain? The aging body? Appearances – at all cost?
The Times cites data that shows college education as a factor in maintaining cognitive function. Also referenced are continuing education, reading, and challenging the mind in structured fashion at any age:
“… college education has long-term benefits well beyond first job and social contacts.” The same could be said for continuing education.
Are we really talking about building the brain’s capacity to learn? 40 years from now, will we find that the way we learn (or don’t) renders the college factor less significant?
According to Dictionary.com, wisdom is defined as:
Don’t we believe that we gain a greater sense of right and wrong as we grow older? Don’t we have greater judgment, by virtue of our experience? Aren’t we more able to discern the subtleties of situations and initiate or respond accordingly?
Older But Wiser? (I Think So)
Frankly? I agree with the sentiments of the article because I’ve observed in friends, family, and myself that “use it or lose it” helps both mind and body. My mother began studying Japanese in her sixties, and was quite conversant by her seventies.
Just one example?
Of course, but I’m a believer.
Experience Is a Winner
I would also like to believe that with experience comes wisdom. Then again, I know people (including that same parent) where I don’t think it necessarily applies.
Leaning on the positive side all the same – sure, I search for a word or name now and then, like everyone else I know over 45. Yet I recognize that breadth of reasoning, maturity, and perspective give us a leg up in many situations.
I’d say that’s something to be pleased about, wouldn’t you? Or like everyone else at this age, am I looking for the (ahem) silver lining?
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