September 24, 2011

USA: Elders better at strategy, shows study

LONDON, England / Daily Mail / News / September 23, 2011

Why you really SHOULD listen to your elders:
Study shows old people really do have more wisdom

By Daniel Bates

It is what people of a certain age will say they have always known.

Experience makes us wise, research shows. Men and women of at least 60 years old are better at making decisions which will reward them in the long term.

Those in their 20s and 30s, however, are interested only in instant gratification and cannot see the benefits of planning.

Wise as an owl: New findings contradict negative stereotypes elders
lose mental edge and reasoning ability with age

The findings contradict the stereotype of elderly people losing their mental edge.

Researchers concluded that regardless of how long pensioners take in coming to a decision, it is generally a better one than a choice made in youthful haste.

The team, from the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, asked 28 'older' adults and the same number of younger participants to perform a decision-making task in which they needed to think about immediate rewards.

Sagel: Researchers said the study gives insight into the decision-making process,
which will help researchers learn more about the effects of ageing in the brain

The young group fared best at choosing the options which gave short-term benefits.

A second experiment, however, showed up a significant difference.

About 50 men and women aged 67-82 and a group of 50 aged 20-36 were asked to store oxygen on a virtual mission to Mars. They could choose between an option which increased rewards in future trials, and one which decreased future rewards but offered a larger immediate one.

In each case, older participants outperformed the rival group by figuring out which option led to the most long-term rewards.

University of Texas professor of psychology Todd Maddox added: 'Broadly, these results suggest that younger adults may behave more impulsively, favouring immediate gains, while older adults are better at considering the long-term ramifications of their actions.

'We found that younger adults performed equivalently in the experiment, but older adults were more adept at adjusting their strategy to fit the goals of the task.'

The researchers are now examining why this difference exists but believe it could demonstrate a change in how we use our brains as we age.

They suggest it could be to do with the declining use of the ventral striatum, a region of the brain associated with habit formation and immediate rewards.

As this deteriorates with age, we compensate by using the prefrontal cortex, which controls rational and deliberate thoughts.

The findings will be published in Psychological Science.


A recent study reveals most men and women will shrink between the ages of 30 and 70.

The average man will lose and inch while women lose two. And by age 80, both men and women average another inch shorter, according a study published in Oxford Journals.

Researchers studied 2,084 men and women aged 17-94 years enrolled from 1958 to 1993 in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, Baltimore, Maryland. For both sexes, height loss began at about age 30 years and accelerated with increasing age.

They say as people age, bones shrink in density and size, and discs along the spine become squished, leading to a loss in height.

Researchers warn, however, shrinking too fast could be a sign of health problems. Men who lose more than two inches in two years have been shown to have an increased risk of suffering from heart disease or breaking a hip bone.

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