There is a skill that does not deteriorate with age, it can even get better. A lot of writers produce their best and sometimes their first books later in life, sometimes well into their 70s, 80s or even 90s. These literary wonders help us understand the important point of how aging and writing functions. Does it get better with age? We have some good news when it comes to language and gaining.
Age does not diminish our capacity to write, speak and learn new vocabulary. With age, our memory might not be that good and our eyesight might not be as good as it was when we were young, but our ability to produce and comprehend language will remain good well into older adulthood.
Roger Kreuz and Richard Roberts wrote the book “Changing Minds: How Aging Affects Language and How Language Affects Aging,“ discussing the link between aging and language. The authors of the book highlighted the latest research results on the topic of skill that does not deteriorate with age. We should not be afraid of losing language capabilities as we grow older, there is plenty of good news when it comes to this. Some abilities such as our knowledge of vocabulary improve during the middle and even late adulthood when compared to younger people.
According to a study, older adults living in a Chicago retirement community had an average vocabulary of more than 21,000 words. The researchers’ study also examined the results of college students and they found that their vocabulary had 16,000 words on average.
According to another study, adults who speak Hebrew (average age of 75) performed better than younger and middle-aged participants when it comes to understanding the meaning of words.
It’s also important to stress that our language abilities can give us a warning sign of future mental impairment decades before the issue manifests. That’s why we should keep track of younger people’s results and how they improve or don’t improve their language abilities with age.
In 1996, a team of researchers studied the writing samples of women who became nuns. They found that the grammatical complexity of essays written by them at the moment when they joined the religious order could predict which nuns could develop dementia decades later. Many nuns donate their brains to science for the conclusive diagnose of dementia.
It’s important to know that reading and writing can prevent cognitive decline. Keeping a journal can substantially reduce the risk of developing certain forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.
From the other side, reading fiction has been associated with a longer lifespan. A study conducted by the Yale University School of Public Health found that people who read approximately 30 minutes a day lived almost two years longer than those who did not read. This effect persisted even when factors like education, gender and health were controlled. Reading has a major impact on how we talk, think and what ideas we have about the world. However, most importantly reading can significantly improve your cognitive functions well into later years of life. Also, researchers suggested that the imaginative work of constructing stories can help us grease our cognitive wheels.
Language is a consistent and stable companion during our life journey. Researchers continue to make discoveries that link aging and language in favor of aging. Also, a study from this year found that studying a foreign language in later years of life can improve overall cognitive functioning.
In conclusion, in order to age well, we should never stop learning through writing and reading, or even something as simple as talking.