Older adults excel in knowledge-based skills

New York: Older adults possess important forms of skills as certain things take a long time to learn and therefore employing the elderly may be hugely beneficial to organisations, new research suggests.

Conducting their research on the Tsimane – an indigenous population of about 15,000 who live in the Bolivian Amazon and depend on hunting, fishing, and gardening for their survival, the researchers found that despite physical frailty setting in, they are often regarded as experts, such as in music and storytelling.

“While most skill development studies have focused on subsistence skills like hunting, we wanted to examine the wider range of complementary skills that develops among ageing humans,” said lead study author Eric Schniter, clinical assistant professor in Chapman University in California, US.

In the field, the researchers interviewed 421 Tsimane adults across eight villages in the Bolivian Amazon.

They found that when it comes to many of the skills requiring lots of knowledge – but not necessarily high-strength–such as music, storytelling, making bows and arrows, and textile production, seniors in the community report the most proficiency and are regarded by others as most expert.

“Many important cultural skills, and not just food production like previously argued, take a long time to learn; and that not all abilities peak in middle adulthood as previously thought,” Schniter said.

“In (Tsimane) society people have an appreciation for that and they defer those roles to older adults,” Schniter noted.

The study leads to possible implications for industrialised societies and economies, too.

Along with the skills specific to life in their traditional subsistence society in the Amazon, seniors were the age group that excelled most at planning, conflict negotiation, and delegation.

“Those are prized talents in any economy; so if baby boomers delay retirement, as some economists predict, it might behoove employers to better deploy them,” Schniter said.

The findings appeared in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.