Two interesting studies caught my eye this past week.
The first one, published by the specialized research network SSRN, looked at time discounting and economic decision-making among older adults. The study found that patience, an attribute that is critical for effective long-term decision making, can decline with age. In other words, our patience wanes as we get older, which can make us prone to making poor decisions.
The second study looked at genetic markers associated with cellular aging and found that people who are less patient are at a greater risk of biological decline that those that tend to take the world in stride. The study did not determine which comes first, impatience or faster aging, but the correlation appears to be there nonetheless.
Aging, Patience, and Decisions – Can You Get Better at All Three?
The connection between impatience, aging, and the quality of decision-making is important. We have all seen the stereotypical grumpy old man (or woman), as well as older people who make irrational decisions that do more harm than good. How can you avoid that fate?
My answer is practice. Think of patience as a muscle and continue to build it up, especially if you are naturally a driven, fast-paced “type A” person who likes to get things done in a snap. Here are some ideas to try.
- Have patience with yourself not knowing something. Sometimes, even the savvy individuals need to research and study a new subject. Feeling like a beginner can be frustrating, which is why so many of us opt out of the learning curve as we get older. Unfortunately, that can lead to poor decisions like not getting long-term care insurance just because you don’t want to undertake the research to understand terminology and compare policies.
- Take up something completely new in a setting where the stakes are low, and the environment is supportive. Learning a new form of exercise like Tai Chi or a new game like Backgammon can give you a comfortable space to practice being a novice. Try your hand at a new craft, take up a painting class, or pick up a book on a new subject. Many local colleges will allow you to “audit” a class for free, which can be a fantastic way to continue learning.
- Do the things that the “older you” will thank you for, even if they look tedious and time-consuming. Get that mammogram or prostate exam, don’t skip your annual physical, stay up to date on vision checks. Think of it as investing time into your future health and well-being.
- Make a conscious decision to not get upset or worked up about delays. Whether in traffic, at the doctor’s office, or in a slow check-out line at the grocery store, take the opportunity to breathe, observe the world around you, and go with the flow.
- Invest time today to make the future smoother for you and your loved ones. That includes taking care of your advanced medical directive, power of attorney, will, end of life medical care, trust and more.
Focus on the Present, Focus on the Future
A focus on the present moment can be healthy if it brings you into appreciation and gratitude. However, it can also be a way of procrastinating on things that are difficult, boring, or time-consuming.
With the new studies showing a correlation between aging, decision-making and impatience, you can choose to take a different path to eldering. Practice patience, even if this skill does not come easily to you. Start small, have courage to try new things that you may not be great at right away, and remember that you have a long life ahead of you. Make decisions with the “future you” in mind.
Tag words: aging, financial planning
Image credit: https://www.feelfreetolaugh.com/single-post/2016/07/03/Has-It-Been-10-Minutes-Yet