Intellectual Deterioration during Old Age and the Problems it pose
It is commonly believed that old age results in mental deterioration, though the studies do not support it. Many studies have been conducted on the impact of aging on intellectual capacity and conflicting results have been obtained.
A longitudinal study by Blum Jarvis Clark (1976) reported that there is small decline in intelligence test scores between 65 and 73 and much steeper from 73 to 85 years of age. This decline was different for different types of intelligence. On the tests of pure information and vocabulary, no decline was observed till age of 85, whereas for the test involving perpetual spatial reasoning decline was ‘sharp’.
Cattell says that there are two types of intelligence –
1. Fluid Intelligence
2. Crystalize Intelligence
It is the fluid intelligence that declines with age and crystalized intelligence being substantiated with experience increases over a period of time. Thus old people do better in things which involve crystalized intelligence.
Contemporary Psychologists agree that professions like teaching where mind is under constant work and stimulation, the effects of mental aging are not evident in the old age. It has also been found that –
1. Lack of motivation and interest
2. Disturbed emotional states
3. Lack of practice and constant stimulation of mind
4. Improper work habits
These are the important factors that are responsible for intellectual decline than actual loss of intelligence or cognitive ability. Studies also show that creativity doesn’t decline with age, though beyond the age of 80 years, decline in intellectual performance becomes a rule rather than exception. The late 60s is marked with the decline in abilities that involve speed and power.
The common belief is that old people are unfit for jobs because one cannot teach old dog new tricks. This causes lot of frustration in oldies. Often they are side tracked just because of their age even where they have the capacity to deliver goods more efficiently than a young man can do. Such apathetic and rejecting attitude is not only upsetting for oldies who want to share with the young generation, their experiences but also reinforces the feeling, that their life is meaningless, useless and dependent. Their self-esteem is lowered and self-confidence shattered when they are neglected and rejected just because they of their age.
The need is for better understanding of the various facts of the intelligence of the aged by the young people so that they can get rid of the traditional stereo types of cash on the experience of old for their benefit. This will give old people a sense of participation and meaning in life besides providing right direction to the young and inexperienced people.