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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Aging and Wisdom

I have taught the Aging course at my University for many years. One of the topics I still have difficulty with is being able to accurately understanding the similarities and differences between intelligence and wisdom. For instance Albert Einstein was very intelligent, but was he always wise?
         Recently I came across a very interesting pair of definitions in a book, written by Virginia Burlingame, that I had ordered thorough It is entitled Gerocounseling: Counseling Elder’s and Their Families.
         In the book intelligence “…is generally seen as the ability to combine available information to pursue a specific goal—such as effective utilization of environmental resources.” A look on the Internet suggests that intelligence includes:
  Adaptability to a new environment or to changes in the   current environment
  Capacity for knowledge and the ability to acquire more
  Capacity for reason and abstract thought
          The book goes on to describe wisdom as the ability to combine cognitive and emotional qualities including “…mastery over emotions, experience, introspection, reflection, empathy, deliberation and avoidance of the impulsive, unconcern with trivia and cautiousness.” Another definition is the “…power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action, based on knowledge, experience, and understanding.  This important because  older people, to successfully age, are expected to acquire wisdom.

         Paul Baltes, an explorer of wisdom and one of the founders of the Max-Plank Institute designed material to help us explore life management problems. One technique is the use of brief vignettes and scenarios.  For example:

“A little, fourteen-year-old girl is pregnant what should she, what should one, consider and do?”
“A fifteen-year-old girl wants to marry soon. What should she, what should one, consider and do?”

According to the Max-Plank Institute wisdom has five components:
1.   Rich factual knowledge (general and specific knowledge about the conditions of life and it’s variations)
2.   Rich procedural knowledge (general and specific knowledge about the conditions of life and its variations)
3.   Life Span Contextualism (knowledge about the contexts of life and their temporal [developmental] relationships
4.   Relativism (knowledge about differences in values, goals, and priorities)

How would you answer the following questions?
What brings happiness?
How have you overcome fear in your life?
When do you do your best work?
What advice would you give for success?
Do you see yourself as a creative person? 
How do you express your creativity?
What do you think the world needs?
What is the best way to resolve conflicts?
What are our main responsibilities as adults?
What are our responsibilities as citizens?
What do you think is society’s main problems?
What makes marriage successful?
What advice would you give parents?

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