People who become wiser as they get older usually display these 11 behaviors

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“Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.”

David Bowie 


Wisdom is easy to recognize but not to define. Most of us know it when we see it, but how should we describe the process of growing wiser, especially as it pertains to gaining wisdom as we age?  

Do people really become wiser as they grow older, or is wisdom independent of age?

I worked as a geriatric nurse for decades. In my experience, our elders can offer us a treasure trove of useful practical and philosophical advice – if we’re astute enough to accept it, that is. 

Some of the best words of wisdom I ever received were as a 17-year-old nurse’s aide. I’m forever grateful to my patients for their guidance and relieved that I had enough sense to heed their words as a teenager.

They say experience is the greatest teacher of all and as I age myself, I find this rings true more often than not. If you’re paying attention during your life, you almost can’t help but learn a thing or two.

Bearing that in mind, here are a few reasons that demonstrate why older people tend to grow wiser with age. 

1) They’ve mastered patience

Patience is about more than just being able to wait on hold for an hour. Being a patient person is about keeping your cool under trying circumstances and maintaining positivity while you wait. 

In the end, cultivating this ability is to your advantage. It’s not worth disturbing your peace over trivial matters or minor inconveniences. 

Older people know for a fact that some things can’t be rushed and don’t allow impatience to negatively affect their progress.

2) They behave with poise

Wise people aren’t reactive and don’t allow stressful situations to dictate their actions or feelings. People who have attained wisdom remain composed, as they understand clear thinking is crucial to assess and overcome challenges.

For example, if a wise person faces health issues, they research their condition and explore their options rather than allowing fear to debilitate them.

I know growing older has taught me that taking action is preferable to quaking with terror. 

3) They welcome change

We all like our routines and our comfort zones. As one ages, this preference for predictability can become rigid and self-sabotaging. 

I saw this all the time working in geriatric long-term care facilities. They wanted their evening snack the second “Wheel of Fortune” started, and not a minute after.

Many people resist any semblance of change because they fear the unknown or want to maintain their status quo.

These feelings are understandable at any age, but mature people look at it quite differently. They’ve lived long enough to know that change is both inevitable and necessary. 

Without change, how can we expect to make advances and grow as individuals? 

We can’t, and that’s why adaptability is so important. Going with the flow is indicative of wisdom. 

4) They engage in active listening  

Being a good listener doesn’t mean just hearing your words. Someone who engages in active listening also pays attention to the emotions contributing to the tone and driving those words. 

Active listeners ensure that your voice is heard and respected.

It’s pretty hard to find a good listener who doesn’t feel compelled to steer the discussion back to themselves. 

If you find one, be sure to return the favor for them.

And don’t convince yourself that they’re bored by listening to you. Someone with good listening skills wants to hear your backstory so they can get to know you better. 

5) They withhold judgment

Wise souls are non-judgmental, meaning they aren’t quick to slap a label on you. They would rather try to understand the deeper meaning behind people’s behavior instead. 

So if someone makes a mistake, a wise person won’t immediately start playing the blame game. Instead, they will carefully assess the circumstances, with the knowledge that everyone has bad days or encounters unexpected roadblocks.

If someone expresses a different opinion, (even if it’s a bit aggressive) a mature individual doesn’t believe they’re misguided or incorrect.

What they will do is respectfully engage in a civilized conversation. They hope to learn which values and experiences have shaped their companion’s perspectives to make them think as they do.

A wise person is more interested in understanding your perspective than winning a debate with you.

6) They know how to prioritize 

Life can throw us curve balls and lead us down sketchy paths that were not part of our life plans.  

It’s easy to get bogged down by even minor setbacks and become overwhelmed. Feeling that sort of pressure can make you blow your worries out of proportion. 

A person who’s achieved wisdom over the years knows that catastrophizing a situation is counterproductive. 

They know how to prioritize what’s important and not allow trivial concerns to mess with their peace.

This doesn’t imply that wise folks sweep their troubles under the rug. They know it’s better to face their issues head-on. They don’t allow their negative thoughts to take over or let a minor glitch ruin their day.

7) They demonstrate flexibility

As we grow older, many people tend to be stuck in their ways. This is a common stereotype for older folks. I saw it all the time as a geriatric nurse. They want things a certain way and get crabby if anything interferes with their routine.

But wisdom imparts some older people with flexibility of thought. Unlike their peers who become rather rigid about their mindset and habits, these people are open to new perspectives.

Their willingness to be flexible helps them evolve as a person throughout their entire life. This is because they are unconstrained by rigid thought patterns or behaviors that might stymie their personal development.

8) They live in the “now”

Regrets? I’ve had a few …

But then again, too few to mention”

That’s wisdom right there, folks.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that all of us have a regret or two. Failed relationships, bad career choices, lost friendships … we’ve all got something that we second-guess in retrospect.

And that’s OK. 

What matters is how much power you’re willing to allow these regrets to wield over your life.

Wise elders understand that you can’t change the past, so it’s foolish to dwell on it. They live in the moment, because that’s all any of us are guaranteed.

9) They look for solutions 

A wise person doesn’t get mired down by a cycle of negativity. Instead, they concentrate their energy on brainstorming solutions to their problems. 

Becoming older and wiser means not just pointing out what’s amiss, but coming up with a plan to set things right.

10) They aren’t interested in control

Another sign that a person has attained wisdom is the understanding that you can’t control everything

Even though perfection is an unattainable myth, many people spend a lifetime chasing it down. 

So we disguise our flaws out of fear of being judged or rejected and craft an outward appearance of perfection that only leaves us feeling disconnected and phony.

This can be the cause of great unhappiness at any stage of life. 

Wise individuals, however, acknowledge and accept their flaws. They know that no matter their age, they remain works in progress. 

11) They display empathy 

No one graced with wisdom is ever indifferent to the feelings of others. They pick up on people’s moods and strive to see things from others’ perspectives.

Wisdom imparts a strong spidey sense of how those around them are faring emotionally. They can, and do, put themselves in your shoes, a character trait that many people lack.

This helps them connect on a deeper level with a wide range of people.

Practicing empathy isn’t about agreement. It’s understanding where someone else is coming from, even if you’re not necessarily on board with their viewpoint.

Final thoughts

Growing older is a blessing denied to many. The wisdom accrued from a lifetime of experiences is the crowning jewel of being an elder and can prove quite useful for younger folk astute enough to ask their seniors questions.

There’s so much we can learn from one another if we’re willing to open our minds and hearts. 

Kathleen Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden lives in a New England forest paradise with her cats, kid, and trusty laptop. She has been writing since age 8 and is such a pack rat she can back that up with physical evidence. Music is her solace and words are her drug, so her house is strewn with records and books. Watch your step.

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