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Life experience makes up for slower brain function in seniors, study suggests

September 26, 2013

When it comes to growing older, there are some changes that are hard to avoid. Conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and osteoporosis are often the result of wear and tear, and many seniors may be more forgetful than they were in their younger years. However, new research from the University of California, Riverside suggests that while they may lose a step, seniors have accumulated enough experience to make up for any deficiencies, especially when it comes to financial matters.

The study, published in the journal Psychology and Aging, relied on an analysis of more than 330 people. Approximately half the group was between 18 and 29 years old, while the other half was between 60 and 82. Researchers asked the participants a group of questions  that assessed their economic decision-making methods. The team also asked the subjects to take a number of standard fluid and crystallized intelligence tests. Study authors found that seniors performed at least as good in all four decision-making areas, and they had better financial and debt literacy. Lead researcher Ye Li says the findings strengthen the notion that you become wiser as you age.

"The findings confirm our hypothesis that experience and acquired knowledge from a lifetime of decision making offset the declining ability to learn new information," Li said.

Li's research is just the latest to support the idea that there is still much to learn about how the brain functions during senior living. Previously, scientists have found that older adults may be able to stave off age-related mental shortcomings. A 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that physical activity, even something as simple as walking, can result in an increase in volume to certain parts of the brain.