Aging? Bring it on!
No human enterprise, individual or corporate, advertises a way to grow older. Eternal youth is exhorted as the absolute jackpot of any potion, training or surgery claiming to make you return and stay in your “prime” which is presumably somewhere in your 20’s where everything seems to be most supple, quickest and best-oiled. Past that, everything is lumped as “downhill” leading to what the late songwriter and wordsmith Leonard Cohen once exactingly and painfully described in his Tower of Song: “I ache in the places where I used to play.” But if aging necessarily means a decline in all aspects of being and becoming, then what’s the whole point in moving on past one’s so-called “prime”?
Lo and behold, a recent study making the headlines these days could and should make us all rethink what we mean by “peak age”. They tested almost 50,000 individuals both through Internet-based questionnaires and traditional methods on various aspects of intelligence. They then compared and analyzed the results using tools to get rid of what previous studies seemed to have ignored. The results floored me and I presume so many others as well because they revealed that we may have all been wrong about when we are best at what, which has real and deep implications on learning, working (and retiring), loving (or loving again).
Let’s start off with those who have marked their 60th year. The common presumption is that those who have gone beyond that age are always grappling for the right words or losing the ability to learn new ones. The study showed that this may be a myth since the study revealed that vocabulary peaks around the age of 67. This maybe why, if you would want to express yourself with words, whether written or verbal, you could exploit this peak and do this at this time. But what we have to remember is that this study is about peaks. Something that was not there to start with or which you did not develop cannot suddenly peak. That is against the law of nature. So if you know someone past their 60’s who cannot seem to craft a sentence without cursing, name-calling or who cannot reflect life’s complexities in their vocabulary, that is not the fault of the study. It is probably due to something else that science has yet to untangle.
As you approach 50, know that it is where your ability to learn and understand new information peaks. Apparently it is NOT when you are in school where you are formally tested and graded based on these abilities. This means that for roles in life that require one to understand the new landscape of innovations AND make sense of it given the existing one, it is most likely best performed at this age. The study also surprised and worried me in that even basic arithmetic skills peak at this age. It worried me because I thought about how much calculation one could miss in the first 50 years of one’s life.
And guess what? The ability that you should have the best command of, i.e., reading other people’s emotions, when you choose whom you will love, trust and commit to? It does not peak until you are 48. Forty-one was the combined age of my parents when they were married and I, the oldest of 3, was already technically present at the wedding. My mom was 18 and my father was 23. That did not go well at all as far as their marriage was concerned. But maybe the test resulted in a peak of 48 because this ability is also forged and honed by experience which those at this age who took the test would already have a significant range and quality of. But this is a good mark too when one considers who will best play the role that crucially depends on the ability to read others.
For concentrating abilities, we are generally best at it at 43. This is easier to see and less surprising. Focus is easier to attain at this age, perhaps because you have seen enough to recognize distractions for what they are – just noise- and that there is some wisdom in diving into something versus scanning or just dipping into everything all at once.
Not surprisingly, the “speed” aspects of intelligence and the ability retain details and remember new ones peak at 18 and 22. This is also something we could easily see in people of this age range. They are quick to figure out how to work a new gadget, a new program, a new song and they seem to have an “unli” capacity for this. I can still remember what it was like at this age – I could read a book a day and even remember which sentence was written on which side of the page. Young people now could do even better on their computers all day long.
The bad news is you can never be at your best in everything at one point. But the good and even better news is that you will be at best in other things even later in life. Even if many people probably know this from their own observations about themselves and others, it is still a liberating to know that science has it covered as well.
So there, life is not a single-peak mountain. It is a many-splendored range depending on what aspect of intelligence we are talking about. It truly deserves to be punctuated with all sorts of adventures because you are naturally armed and gifted to meet it at different stages in your life to make the most of it. “Speed” and “novelty” are hallmarks of youth which we often mistake as surrogates for over-all quality of intelligence. Speed is good and handy but velocity is more meaningful as velocity is speed with direction. And “velocity of intelligence” seems to be what we gain as we grow older. So bravely and boldly - age and experience those other darn peaks. – Rappler.com