At Tribe, we conduct ongoing research on the new generations in the workforce and what Gen X and Y need to be successful employees in companies large and small. But I’m feeling a new fondness lately for my generation, the Boomers, many of whom are in the midst of the most fruitful and rewarding part of our careers.
New research indicates that our brains actually hit overall peak performance only after age 40. In her recent book “The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind,” science writer Barbara Strauch cites new neurological studies that indicate that it takes until middle age for the hemispheres to “suddenly begin acting in concert.” So we Boomers will manifest powerful bursts of creativity, faster understanding of complex situations, more sound judgment, and better regulation of our emotions.
Even better, Strauch references brain studies that actually map that welcome by-product of middle age: wisdom. With the brain hemispheres collaborating more seamlessly, not to mention the impossible-to-fake benefits of life experience, Boomers are living proof of those twin traits of age and wisdom.
I often tell younger people that hard things get easier with age. Not just the ability to generate ideas, plough through work and operate at a high level with greater stamina, but also the resilience to absorb life’s blows and keep going. Boomers I know and love have lost jobs, companies, marriages, breasts and beloved dogs and come through the other side intact, if changed.
I once watched two men, a son in his 20s and his father in his 50s, run the Chicago marathon together. Although the son had a much higher level of fitness, he finished far behind his father. At the time, I thought it a striking demonstration of the benefits of life experience. The father came across the finish line exhausted but composed. The son staggered to the finish almost an hour later and looked like he’d been through the wringer of emotions and not fared well in the process.
Of course, it helps to keep the brain sharp. Being engaged in our work, exposing ourselves to new situations, people and ideas, taking on the daily crossword puzzle or a waiting-room round of solitaire or Scrabble™, and maintaining that passion for living all contribute to robust intellectual powers in our later years.
But it doesn’t hurt to know that science supports the notion that we Boomers are just hitting our stride.