Seasoned professionals are vital assets of smart, successful companies, according to new evidence.
An interesting Business Insider article from this past November points out that many important communication and management skills continue to grow throughout our lives, often peaking well beyond age 50.
Older typically means wiser, for example, when it comes to complex problem-solving, according to the research the article cites: “According to a 2010 study, the people who performed best at analyzing a given conflict, seeing different points of view, gauging uncertainties, and envisioning solutions, were people who were at least 60 years old.”
The same study also showed that people in their sixth decade have developed stronger emotional intuitions. More than other age cohorts, it seems, they can accurately identify a person’s emotional state simply from looking at their eyes.
You can also count on your math skills being strongest in your prime years. The 49,000-person study showed math skills reach their peak at around 50 years of age. The more your years, the better your sums, or so it seems.
Vocabularies, too, expand with age, reaching their greatest size when we’re in our late 60s and early 70s. That’s a real asset when you’re searching for just the right word to communicate an idea with utmost clarity and precision.
To be fair to Millennials and their youngers, brain processing power peaks at a callow 18 years; 22-year-olds best remember names, and 32-year-olds are best at remembering faces. Yet who better to guide and counsel these agile young minds than those with extensive experience of life? The older we get, the better we’re able to help more junior professionals put into perspective perturbations that needlessly alarm them, and to help them judge what and who are actually worth the effort of remembering.
Overall, there’s absolutely no evidence to support ageism, a prejudice some believe is rampant in the communications field.
What about creativity and age?
A February 21 LinkedIn post by Rodd Chant , an (aging) advertising creative director, ticks off a list of highly creative individuals whose contributions thrived in their later decades:
“Morgan Freeman became an international star at 52.
Kathryn Bigelow was 57 when The Hurt Locker was released.
Millard Kaufman (co-creator of Mr. Magoo) wrote his first novel at 90.
Julia Child made her television debut at 51.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie, published her first novel at 65.
Anna Mary Robertson Moses (Grandma Moses) painted her first canvas at 76.”
And if relating to your audience is an important consideration, medical communicators should note that by 2021, one out of three physicians in the US will be age 65 or older.*
The obvious implication is that when we look for people to work with us in our efforts to advance medical knowledge, we’re wise to appreciate the unique gifts that older candidates and colleagues bring us. Let’s hire seasoned executives, and let’s hold on to the ones we already have. Their experience is a treasure chest, and their wisdom helps keep us all sane when things get a little crazy. Like a fine wine, talent can—and usually does—improve with age.
*A study published in 2017 did link doctor age to increased rates of patient deaths, but also showed that patients of older doctors with busy practices fared just as well as patients of younger doctors. (Tsugawa Y, Newhouse JP, Zaslavsky AM, et al. BMJ 2017;357:j1797.)