Firsthand—experiences with aging
As I age and get more forgetful, I wonder whether I make wiser or poorer choices. Native American and Asian cultures consider the elderly wise and treat them with respect. In contrast, in European and American culture old age is viewed as a time when mental faculties fade. An important question remains: what components of wisdom grow or decline in our later lives?
Over the past decade, gerontologists and social scientists have begun to study wisdom as multidimensional. For instance, in a popular TED Talk, Dilip Jeste, M.D., a geriatric neurophysicist, says the essence of wisdom is decisiveness, insight, social-emotional behavior, and tolerance. Researcher Jeanine Parisi and her associates consider the most important aspects of wisdom to be experience, social interaction, and generativity (multi-generational viewpoints). Sociologist Monika Ardelt defines the key components to be cognition, reflection, and affect.
From a review of the literature, I’ve concluded that there are three components or pillars of wisdom. Cognition encompasses reasoning, memory, problem-solving, creativity, decisiveness, crystalized intelligence, and procedural knowledge. Reflection includes perspective-taking, tolerance, openness, insight generation, growth production, generativity, balance of individual with common goods, and meaning-making. The social/emotion pillar consists of pro-social actions, social decision-making, facilitative coordination, empathy, and emotion management.
Journey in wisdom
Across our lifetimes these elements can change. Most notable are changes in cognition, especially memory loss. So, it should not be surprising that with old age comes a decline in cognition; but many forget that old age also brings a greater repertoire of experiences. While we may lose memory, we gain both reflection and social/emotion skill across our silver-haired years.
Ardelt and her associates studied more than 14,000 persons in Germany. Looking at their life spans from age 20 to 90, the researchers found little difference in the overall wisdom trendline. However, when separating cognitive from social/emotion and reflection wisdom, they found a flat trendline for cognitive but a rising trendline for social/emotion and reflective wisdom.
Those of us in later life don’t need surveys to know that our wisdom grows with age. We know that our experience grows and from that we can nurture our perspectives and other noncognitive wisdom. Most important, we can share our wisdom to help younger generations. And from such mentoring, our noncognitive wisdom can expand even more.
If you would like to share a firsthand experience related to health and aging, please contact Ron Anderson at email@example.com.
At A Glance
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Luncheon + Forum
West Wing Dining Room
Joan Gabel, president
University of Minnesota
Living Well Workshop
Dale Shephard Room
How to keep our brains healthy
Pan-seared catfish with lemon aioli over red bean and rice, with seasonable vegetables.
For special dietary needs, please
request when making your
RSVP by November 12
Prepayment of $23 per person.
Annual prepayers, please cancel if you will NOT attend.
(No RSVP required for workshops.)
Reserve and pay online or send
your check payable to ‘UMRA’ to
1147 Ivy Hill Drive
Mendota Heights, MN 55118
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UMRA's annual October benefits workshop gave members a preview of the University's latest health care and retirement savings plans.
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Still driven to discover? The application deadline for next year's Professional Development Grants for Retirees is December 13.
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Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, is a chronicle of the life experiences that shaped who she has become.
Participants in UMRA's September Living Well Workshop learned that there are abundant on-campus learning opportunities for retirees at the U of M.
In a personal essay, UMRA member Lynn C. Anderson discusses "remembering" and the importance of being intentional.
Information about volunteer opportunities, both on campus and in the community, is now readily available through the University Retiree Volunteer Center’s new volunteer management system.
If so, UMRA’s Grants Committee encourages you to consider applying for a PDGR grant for the coming academic year. The grants are available to any U of M retiree.
Author Jack Zipes, a professor emeritus of German, Scandinavian, and Dutch, introduced UMRA’s September forum audience to Charles Godfrey Leland, “the forgotten folklorist of the 19th century.”
Meet UMRA member Bev Moe, a retired paralegal who has hiked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago and is still going strong!
If you've joined UMRA since November 1, 2018, please come to the New Member Welcome Reception and Orientation before the luncheon meeting on October 22.