Sigmund Freud once claimed that “about the age of 50, the elasticity of the mental processes on which treatment depends is, as a rule, lacking. Old people are no longer educable.” Ironically, Freud was 51 when he wrote those words, and he went on to produce some of his best work after 65.
The idea that younger people are smarter and savvier than their older counterparts is inaccurate. When marketing to Boomer women, realize they are often just reaching the peak of their cognitive powers.
Boomers Enjoy the Combination of Wisdom and Brain Power
Scientists have discovered that despite a few short-term memory glitches and a slower processing speed, our mental capacity doesn’t even reach its full potential until midlife. They are learning that, contrary to Freud’s assumption, the brain continues to change and grow throughout life. One key area of growth is the accumulation of white matter in the sophisticated thinking centers of the brain (which peaks around 50). Because of these two factors, Boomer women and men can manage information better, analyze facts better and generate meanings that were entirely beyond them when they were younger.
Of course, the most important difference between older and younger brains is also the easiest to overlook: older brains have learned more than young ones. They’ve been around the block a lot more times, seen the world, made mistakes, made discoveries, managed recoveries and made amends. Says George Bartzokis, UCLA neurologist:
“In midlife, you’re beginning to maximize the ability to use the entirety of information in your brain on an everyday, ongoing, second-to-second basis. Biologically, that’s what wisdom is.”
Studies have shown that years of experience and practice enable older adults to build up a rich library of alternative ways to solve problems or make decisions that allows them o bypass steps needed by younger adults. We get better at sizing up a situation and problem-solving. We have more confidence in our opinions, feelings and decisions and don’t need validation from others. We are more pragmatic. We develop a richer vocabulary and a better understanding of how to use these words effectively. The abilities we learned earlier in life and gained proficiency with over the years are now smoothly polished and almost second nature.
Does all this make Boomers smarter than Millennials? At this stage of life, it just might! Sales and marketing to Boomer women efforts would be wise to assume these women are smart, sophisticated and discerning.