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Are Wisdom and Resiliency One and the Same When it Comes to Aging?


Posted on April 9, 2014 by Katy Miller


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My interest was piqued by a recent New York Times article, which suggested that wisdom could play a major part in the aging process.

The basic thesis of the article is that wisdom is a considerable indicator of longevity.

The study on wisdom referenced in the article grew from previous research, which showed that “satisfaction late in life consists of things like maintaining physical and mental health, volunteering and having positive relationships with others.” Certainly, this same conclusion is at the core of our mission.

But, the additional insight of psychological attributes is utterly fascinating. In some recent informal team chats, we’ve talked about “resilience,” and have asserted that psychological factors are as important as where someone lives, whom they live with and their daily activities. This New York Times piece certainly seems to support our theory, no? Let’s break this down.

What is wisdom, exactly? The geriatric neuropsychologist behind the research, Vivian Clayton, suggests that wisdom “consists of three key components: cognition, reflection and compassion.”

It was this statement that led me to the idea that perhaps with respect to aging, resiliency and wisdom may, in fact, be one in the same. Think about it like this: a person of great resiliency tends to have a deep capacity for looking at the world around them (reflection), processing it (cognition) and approaching it with great care for what lies ahead (compassion).

In our happiest residents, specifically, we often see resiliency expressed in such a humble and unassuming way that it can easily be overlooked. They’ve seen so much in their lifetimes, yet each day provides opportunities to learn something new. Our oldest residents tend to have a simplistic and philosophically positive outlook on life. In essence, they “roll with the punches,” so to speak.

Isn’t this what true wisdom affords us in life; the ability to quickly see a situation for its benefits and approach it with an optimistic and open mind?


Category: News In Aging

1 Comment

  • Linda Sasser says:

    This makes a great deal of sense! It is known that as we age, our emotional responses tend to be less extreme than at younger ages, which can aid greatly with resilience. In addition, we tend to be more reflective, partly because of having more time in which to reflect! And wisdom is greatest in our older years because we have a lifetime of experiences from which to draw, especially when we need to make decisions and solve problems.