Over time, I’ve always heard conflicting stereotypes: either that the older a person is, the more their senses are deteriorated OR the more a person ages, the wiser and more intelligent decisions they are able to make. Both have grains of truth in them, yet the real answer comes from a study that AOL News posted about today: the mid-life brain actually peaks in memory and is stronger in mind than its younger counterparts. Apparently, people as old as their 60’s are sharper mentally than when they were younger, which supports the idea that getting older actually makes you wiser. While I could get into the details of this study (check out the book here), I really want to explore why in this culture the older we get, the less revered we are in the workplace and why even after studies such as these, there’s still ageism in America.
After being in the workplace for years, it’s pretty common to see young 20-somethings working alongside those in their 40s and 50s. It’s also unfortunately clear to notice a discrepancy or cut-off age where jobs are more likely to be lost. The younger, more experienced workers are almost always coveted because they come “bright” and “fresh with ideas,” even though those who already know what they’re doing could be the ones holding up the company. Why is it that we’d want to immediately instate 20-somethings into the workplace when the ones who have the years under their belt could be assets for bringing everyone up to speed? While it’s great for the younger workers to get a chance, especially in this economy, it’s also important to keep those with strong skills for the job in the position to teach the up-and-comers. While these discrepancies could also be due to money troubles, it’s wrong for the stereotype of the deteriorating brain in middle-aged or older workers to be used as grounds to fire people who have been working at the same place for years. According to some experts’ weigh-ins on the subject, “Older people are [also] less likely to respond thoughtlessly to negative emotional stimuli because their brains have slowed down compared to young people. This, in fact, is what we call wisdom.” The older you get, the more calm your decision making gets. This could create a balanced environment in the workplace that might not otherwise be there.
Although it is true that cognitive abilities do slow with age, the study does say: “What we have learned from studying the time we call ‘middle age’ is that the changes that take place as we age give us the best brains of our lives.” Is that the type of worker you really want to pass up? It’s clear from this study that we should be working in unison with the older and younger workers to create a happy medium of job security and understanding.
What do you think about ageism discrimination in the workplace?