Age does not detract from decision making capability as is often believed, it has been claimed.
A new study conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the Centre for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas found that aging does not correlate with deteriorating ability to think for ourselves.
The study, which involved people in their 50s, 60s and 70s, demonstrated that age alone is not a key factor in predicting the ability to make decisions.
Researchers found that participants in all three life stages had about the same strategic learning abilities.
But the oldest participant group slightly surpassed the rest, implying strategic learning capacity may actually increase with age in normally functioning adults.
Respondents in their 70s were found to be more conscientious, vigilant and measured than those in the younger groups.
The study revealed that people in the older age category are as logically consistent as younger decision-makers.
"Combining these findings with emerging evidence of retained cognitive brain health in aging suggests that policies aimed at protecting those most vulnerable to poor decision-making should focus on impairment caused by an underlying medical condition, rather than age itself, as a risk factor,” said Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.
"Rather than attributing impaired decision-making to age alone, approaches that assess an individual’s strategic learning ability and cognitive function can improve our understanding of decision-making capacity at all ages and between genders."
Dr Sandra Chapman, founder and chief director of the Centre for BrainHealth, said the study findings are "a crucial first step" to move beyond age as a demographic factor used to explain impaired decision-making.
She claimed that policies and practices which focus exclusively on age-related declines in decision-making will unnecessarily curtail the autonomy of older adults with preserved cognitive function.
Dr Chapman noted that age is not a disease, therefore noticeable drops in mental decline warrant medical attention to determine cause and best course of action.
"Maximising cognitive potential is possible across the lifespan," she stated.
Posted by Sarah Parish