10 Ways We Get Smarter As We Age

1. Your hemispheres sync up.

The brain is divided into two hemispheres (each specializing in different operations). Brain scans show that while young people often use only one side for a specific task, middle-aged and older adults are more likely to activate both hemispheres at once—a pattern known as bilateralization – hence making better connections among the disparate parts of a problem or situation.

2. Your brain never stops growing.

3. Your reasoning and problem-solving skills get sharper.

A study prepared for the Brookings Institute found that middle-aged people make smarter money decisions—with the best performance notched by those in their early 50s.

4. You can focus on the upside.

Carstensen, a professor of psychology at Stanford University asked a group of subjects ages 18 to 94 to record their emotional states at five random times a day for a week. She repeated the procedure with the same participants five years later, and then again five years after that. Participants reported more positive well-being and greater emotional stability as time went on. This may be due to changes in how the  emotion-processing center of the brain (amydgala)—responds to positive and negative events .

5. Your people skills are constantly improving.

As we get older, our social intelligence keeps expanding, we understand ourselves and others better.

6. Your priorities become clearer.

 7. You’re always adding to your knowledge and abilities.

Some kinds of information (eg vocabulary) we learn and never forget. Studies show that we keep adding new words as we age, giving us ever richer,  more subtle ways to express ourselves. Job-related knowledge also continues to accumulate, meaning we keep getting better and better at what we do.

8. You can see the big picture.

 9. You gain control of your emotions.

In a study published in 2009, psychologist Vasiliki Orgeta, PhD, evaluated younger and older adults and concluded that older adults (between ages 61 and 81) had more clarity about their feelings, made better use of strategies to regulate their emotions, and had a higher degree of control over their emotional impulses.

 10. You become an instant expert, even in new situations.

As the brain encounters new experiences, it develops schemas— these are mental frameworks that allow us to recognize and respond to similar circumstances in the future . By midlife we’ve accumulated so many schemas that help give us our bearings even in novel situations.