Older people’s minds are more focused and less restless than the young, new research finds.
On top of these advantages, the old suffer less from anxiety, compared with younger adults.
While older brains inevitably decline, their owners automatically adopt strategies to use them more efficiently than the young, scientists have found.
Instead of letting their minds wander, as younger people do, seniors are more motivated to focus.
Dr Paul Dockree, study co-author, said:
“‘Old and absentminded’ is a phrase, which is recognised in common parlance, but it does not hold universal truth.
Our research suggests that older adults can be more focused, less impeded by anxiety and less mentally restless than younger adults.
Importantly, older adults appear to mitigate the negative aspects of cognitive decline by increasing motivation and adopting more efficient strategies to suspend the wandering mind when focus is required.”
For the study, older and younger adults were given a series of cognitive tests.
The results revealed that the minds of younger adults wandered from their task 45 percent of the time, but older adults only wavered 27 percent of the time.
Older adults were also less anxious and depressed and displayed better overall focus.
Ms Catherine Moran, the study’s first author, said:
“Age-related cognitive decline in later life represents a leading cause of disease burden and loss of functional independence.
Despite these challenges, there is a consistent and perhaps, puzzling finding of reduced mind-wandering with advancing age.
We highlight the adaptive strategies and positive qualities adopted by older adults that led to a beneficial reduction in their mind-wandering and equivalent performance with younger adults.
Dissecting the mechanisms underlying different cognitive processes may be important indications of successful ageing.”
The study was published in the journal Psychology and Aging (Moran et al., 2021).