Boomers: Are older people really more experienced (in a meaningful way)?

A recent “room for debate” feature on the NY Times website was about age discrimination. There were hundreds of comments, some funny like “middle age is always 10 years older than me”, but one comment was by a 45 year old woman, who said she liked being older rather than younger, because now she was independent and had a lifetime of experiences to make things better. That was worth any physical decline.

So a question for you Baby Boomers, is every “middle aged” (10 years older than me) person filled with non-stop genius experiences? Are you thinking of things so complex that us gen x/y people cannot comprehend them?

What are these “life experiences” we are always told about — somehow such talk always it sounds to me like a sort of bragging. While seemingly obvious, the boomers never actually define them or go into any detail about it.

So are you boomers enjoying heartily, right now, the feeling of your immense multi-decade-based experiences? Please elucidate this to us naive and unseasoned newborns…

To start the ball rolling, having raised children, bought and sold multiple houses, and worked for a couple of decades probably top my list.

I’m not a Boomer, but one thing I am enjoying now that I am not a twenty-something is not making a lot of newby mistakes. My sense of who to trust and what’s going to matter in 5 years is a lot better than it was.

In a business context, having this not be the first bad economy experience of one’s life can be pretty valuable. On the other hand, people who got big raises during the good times are often not worth what they’re earning now that the labor market has changed. Sometimes the experienced folks have a hard time coming to grips with that.

I turn 50 this year and to be honest always felt like a bit of a fraud. I am an Architect and a very successful one, but all my life I was the ‘kid’ in the office, then suddenly I was the ‘old man’. All of a sudden these kids were looking to me for leadership and guidance, but I didn’t feel like I knew more but it turns out I actually do.

See when one of the young guys (and this makes me sad to type I am talking about young architects who are say 35!) are fumbling, I will just say ‘do this or that’ and the problem gets solved. See I didn’t think I knew what I was doing but somewhere along the line I did learn it. Experience–you can’t beat it. In my almost 30 years as an Architect I have seen a lot and thus seen a wide range of issues. So when something pops up that spooks these whippersnappers I can see through the crap that surrounds this issue and get to the meat of it and I know how to solve it. It is just the same old shit I have seen in the past, just packaged in a new fangled way–but I KNOW how to solve this issue and thus I am more experienced then these young guys in a very meaningful way.

They also see and learn to keep their calm and look beyond what is immediately in front of them. Age and experience gives you the ability to not panic and to remain calm and solve the underlying issues involved in the problem.

Think about your own life–say you are 35. You think some kid age 20 can do what you do? He hasn’t had the life/college/work experiences you have had so he will make mistakes and misteps along the way that you with your experience would know to avoid. Isn’t that meaningful?

Dealing with dying friends, with grief and grieving.

Knowing how to overlook the surface flaws and see the solid (or not) structure underneath. (Applies to people, cars and houses.)

Learning the confidence that comes from knowing that other peoples judgements of me usually don’t matter.

Seeing first hand that people in Africa, Europe, Asia, etc are really a lot like people here.

Realizing that even though I don’t know what I’m doing, I can learn how to do lots of things. And then learning how to recognize those things I’m better off letting the experts do (before I have to pay to repair a flooded bathroom.)

All good answers so far. May I just add, with years of experience, we’ve made a lot of the ‘newbie’ mistakes already, (and hopefully learned from them). Plus, we’ve seen many other mistakes made by others. If you pay attention, you can learn from those too!

It helps in dealing with people also. Like the saying, “Someone that treats you nice, but is rude to the waitress is not a nice person.” That means more if you’ve known several people like that. You get better at recognizing who people really are sooner.

Depends on the person.

Did they live 50 years, or live the same 1 year 50 times over?

In my case, I don’t know. I’m 39, but working at a job a 20-year old should have. Not sure if that makes me flexible or foolish.

When I compare what I can do now to what I could do when I was 18 or even 25, hell yeah, I have valuable life experience. And I’m getting more every day.

Sometimes I see a younger person obviously doing something wrong, and mentally start to scoff, and then I remember that when I was 20, I didn’t know how to answer an office phone properly either. There was a time when I didn’t know what a spreadsheet was let alone how to sort it and make an indexed list. Or how to ask for a raise. Or deal with a flustered person. Lots of stuff, some of it now automatic and impossible to list.

Watching kids grow up is an astounding thing. You have to learn to let go - to celebrate beginnings and ends - to see life as something that flows and which will eventually be gone, that you can’t stop, that you aren’t in the center of. Its also way easier to say no to people that I don’t care about after I’ve had to tell the children I love “no” about a zillion times a day.

You have more perspective on how much things change - how much is fleeting and temporary - even if that boss drives you nuts for ten years, its just ten years…

I’ve buried both my parents and was executor of my father’s estate.

I’ve learned how to navigate the FAFSA, not just once, but all four years for three children.

I’ve learned how to drive (and how NOT to drive) on ice.

At work, my first drafts are better than anyone else’s third drafts, because I made all the first draft mistakes 20 years ago.

I’ve been employed, unemployed, well-off, living one step ahead of bill collectors, healthy, sick, single, married, divorced, childless and a father, and learned to deal with all of it.

One of the most important factors in mastering anything is the time spent doing it. The smartest most motivated 22 year old out of college cannot compete with his 32 year old equivalent. He can, however, compete with a lazy, stupid 32 year old who fucked around for 10 years.

I think there comes a point though where the world changes enough to where a lot of that experience may become irrelevant and outdated.

One important thing you come to realize through enough life experience is the value of that experience, even if you can’t always clearly communicate that value to others. As you grow to appreciate the benefits of experience, you realize there is little to be gained by making snide, sarcastic remarks that suggest something that you don’t grasp immediately is worthless.

Chances are you’ll understand this years from now.

“It’s amazing how much mature wisdom resembles being too tired.” Robert Heinlein

What are all these “mistakes” that apparently everyone makes but doesn’t recognize until they’re old?

Experiences cannot be taught, they have to be lived through.

I have lived through many and I am wiser for having done that.

I advocate the experience of life and its trials in order to move on and try some more of the challenges of living.

It is what makes life so much fun!!!

The alternative is grim.

No, not everyone. Just more of us than you guys, that’s how we survived to get so old and wise. :wink:

What you really learn is that most things are considerably less complex than you imagine them to be when you are young…

That is quite a profound statement, and very true.

Experience teaches that many problems can be reduced to simple terms. Life and relationships and careers are all soo complex!! Nope, you just can’t make good decisions while your face is up close. Step back.

If it feels wrong, it almost certainly is. If it feels right, it’s probably wrong too, but give it some time to see. Repeat until you get it right, stir occationally.

Oh, yeah…we’re bragging!

The fact that you don’t know what a"life experience" might be means you haven’t had enough.

It means loving, losing that love, gaining another, feeling lost and finding your way out, accepting your limitations, learning how to deal with people without making enemies of them, learning how to clean out a lint filter and when, dealing with the results of NOT cleaning out a lint filter, being able to enjoy a day even if your favorite technology isn’t available, learning how to clean a wound and bandage a knee without getting ill, feeling confident when you enter a room not because you think you are better than sliced bread but because you have baked and sliced the bread yourself so many times it is a part of your being now, holding a dying pet in your arms as it takes its last breath, comforting your children when that pet dies, burying that pet in the flowerbed, teaching a new pet where the litterbox is and what it is for, and being responsible for your own things.

It means discovering that no matter how many times you were told you were a unique and special person, it doesn’t mean that you are…and it means being at peace with just being average. It means learning that friends don’t always stay your friends, and that things that seemed crucial and heart-wrenching at 18 are mere blips in the course of a lifetime. It means knowing that your life isn’t ruined if you don’t succeed at something, and that things that devastated you at 22 are things you can take in stride at 40.

For a simple example, I was always impressed about how good my father was at fixing things. I now know this comes from having fixed everything in the house at least once. Fixing something a second time is a lot easier.

At work, I have a large stock of canned program segments in my internal library, so I can knock stuff out in a day that would take younger people a week. I’ve committed most possible bugs, so debugging consists of “I screwed that up again.” Give me time to read the Dope there.

I also have been working in my field for 30 years, and so can point out to some grad students how they have been reinventing the wheel, with cites. I also got started when you could understand everything that went on in a computer, which helps ones intuition.

But I’m not sure I’d want to go through it all again!

As we say in Taekwondo: age, experience and cunning will always defeat youth, exuberance and stamina. :smiley: