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Older People Can't Make Good Decisions about Important Issues

No one wants to be taken out of the decision-making process.

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It's been said that age brings wisdom. Scientists would agree -- except they call wisdom crystallized intelligence, by which they mean cognitive skills based on knowledge drawn from a lifetime of experience and education [source: Li et al]. The rest of us might call it intuition or a gut feeling.

By any name, this quality supplies a broader base of facts for people to base decisions on. It makes use of information that may seem unimportant to the decision at hand. Crystallized intelligence often compensates for, or complements, the critical thinking skills that typically weaken with age. As a result, older adults often make decisions that prove to be as sound as those made solely by weighing pros and cons and evaluating the reliability of sources.

Crystallized intelligence has its limits; mainly, it's overwhelmed by too much information and too many choices. But studies have shown that when the aging are removed from decisions regarding their own health care or services, they are less likely to benefit from -- or even take advantage of -- these services [source: Medical News Today]. This should come as no surprise: Being left out of important, personal decisions is likely to cause feelings of alienation, regardless of one's age. Some research has suggested a possible solution to this dilemma: In several studies, older people preferred a reasonable but manageable number of choices -- five choices compared to 50, for example [source: Reed].

Our next stereotype takes on another serious issue. In fact, it's a matter of life and death.

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