Is it true that as people grow older, their intelligence tends to decline?
NO. Although there are some circumstances where the statement may hold true, current research evidence suggest that intellectual performance in healthy individuals holds up well into old age. The average magnitude of intellectual decline is typically small in the 60s and 70s and is probably of little significance for competent behavior. There is more average decline for most abilities observed once the 80s are reached, although even in this age range there are substantial individual differences. Little or no decline appears to be associated with being free of cardiovascular disease, little decline in perceptual speed, at least average socioeconomic status, a stimulating and engaged lifestyle, and having flexible attitudes and behaviors at midlife. The good news is that research data now indicate that intellectual decline can be modified by modest interventions.
Linda Breytspraak, Center on Aging Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Last update: Tuesday, March 14, 2006