Embrace Those Senior Moments
Studies Suggest They're A Sign of Wisdom

Many of my friends began joking about having "senior moments" a few years ago. I generally joked back that I've been having them since my teaching days, which allowed me to use the convenient "absent minded professor" excuse. But today, the New York Times website carried an article, "Older Brain May Be a Wiser Brain," that suggests that senior moments may actually be a sign of wisdom. This has to be wonderful news for all of us who sometimes walk into a room having forgotten why we made the trip, or my personal specialty, beginning a sentence and forgetting where I was going with it.

In fact, according to a new edition of a neurology book entitled "Progress in Brain Research," what actually happens to adults as they age is a "gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact." I think this is true of my mid-sentence blankouts, as I tend to talk too often in parentheticals (something I also battle in my writing as well... wait... what was I talking about? Oh yes, senior moments.)

So when you forget that name at a cocktail party or business meeting, it may be because you are taking in much more about what's going on there. I'm reminded of a scene in the movie "Dad" (an excellent movie by the way, and one that proved that Ted Danson really can act ... wait ... what was I talking about? Oh yes, senior moments) Anyway, in this movie scene, Ted Danson brings his aging father to a high powered business meeting concerning a large merger. As the bright young executive was pitching the merger, Ted's Dad leaned over and slipped Ted a note that said "He's Lying!" ... which turned out to be true.

According to Lynn Hasher, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute, "older adults, because they’ve retained all this extra data, [are] now suddenly the better problem solvers. They can transfer the information they’ve soaked up from one situation to another. A broad attention span may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers,” Dr. Hasher said. “We believe that this characteristic may play a significant role in why we think of older people as wiser.”

Jacqui Smith, a professor of psychology and research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, concludes “These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is,” she said. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”

Now I've been having some fun with this topic, but let's get serious for a minute. Think about the ramifications of these findings on boomer employability. I keep pointing you to books like Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, and their corresponding website, www.encore.org. And more recently, I recommended the ReBootYou website. I keep this topic in the forefront because so many of us (more than 80%) have no intention of dropping out of the workforce. Now, here are the research findings that prove the value that you and I know we still have. We bring a lot to the table, and it would be a crime to waste it. - Bob

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