New study investigates older adults decision-making

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The study, published June 1 in the journal Psychology and Aging, 54 older adults (aged 66 to 76) and 58 younger people (aged 18 to 35) participated in game-like tasks designed to test their ability to make financial decisions and tolerate risk.

Those who had better cognitive abilities made better decisions and accumulated more money. Memory and the ability to process information in the brain were crucial, Huettel said.

When younger and older adults had the same levels of memory and speed of processing, “they’d be likely to make the same sorts of decisions,” Huettel said. “In general, younger adults are able to do things faster than older adults. But there are a number of older adults who are faster than younger adults.”

The findings suggest that older people might make better decisions if they have more time for their brains to process details, he said. “You can help many older adults make higher-quality decisions by presenting the information a little bit better.”

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