DECISION MAKING BY ELDERS
When making decisions, older persons have been found to sacrifice speed for accuracy, rejecting quick, simplistic solutions to problems and preferring to work slowly, examining issues from a variety of perspectives before selecting a response. Finally, many of the health problems which are more common in later life (e.g. cardiovascular problems) can significantly affect cognitive functioning as well as test-taking ability.
Not all cognitive changes later in life are negative, however. Older persons typically exhibit greater experience-based knowledge, increased accuracy, better judgment, and generally improved ability to handle familiar tasks than younger persons. Such applied knowledge, or wisdom, may, in fact, be considerably more important to one’s ability to accomplish most tasks of day-to-day life than are the abstract abilities tapped by intelligence tests.
Even when physical or cognitive competencies are affected by the aging process, older adults often are able to develop strategies for compensating partially or totally. For example, older typists have been found to type as quickly and accurately as younger typists even though they are unable to move their fingers as fast, because they have developed a better ability to anticipate upcoming words and locate the proper keys on the typewriter. In general, older adults can perform about as well as younger persons on tasks which provide sufficient opportunity to compensate for slower physical and cognitive functioning.