Want Advice? Ask a 60-Year-Old. They're Dying to Give It to You

I didn't listen much to my mother when I was growing up.  Nobody does.

But now it's turning out that people in their 60s may actually benefit from giving advice.  Maybe that's why our moms did.

A new study, however, also found that few people are willing to receive it.


The new study reveals that individuals in their 60s who give advice to a broad range of people tend to see their lives as especially meaningful, according to newswise.com. At the same time, this happens to be the age when opportunities for dispensing advice become increasingly scarce. 

“This association between advice giving and life meaning is not evident for other age groups,” says Markus H. Schafer, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto and the lead author of the study. “Overall, we interpret these findings to suggest that the developmental demands of late midlife—particularly the desire to contribute to others’ welfare and the fear of feeling ‘stagnant’—fit poorly with the social and demographic realities for this segment of the life course. Just when giving advice seems to be most important, opportunities for doing so seem to wane.”

And now I'm finding it to be true for me.  Not too many people in this demographic have teenagers, but I do, and sure enough, if I tell him to wear his coat, out the door he walks without it.

 Researchers found that 21 percent of people in their 60s and 27 percent of people 70 or older reported giving advice to no one in the previous year. By comparison, only about 10 percent of people in their 20s (this group also included 18 and 19-year-olds), 30s, 40s, and 50s said they gave no advice in the past year.

There's something particularly  poignant about this.  When in life would you be in a better place in life than when you'd already had all -- or most -- of the experiences younger people are wading through right now?

I give advice to everyone, wanted or not.  I especially give it to my husband, who most often ignores it, then comes back and says, "You were right."  Or then he does what I tell him, and thinks he came up with it!

 Conventional age norms suggest that the ideal mentor or advice-giver is someone who has a lot of life experience,” Schafer said. “However, compared to their younger counterparts, older adults occupy fewer social roles, are less socially active, and interact with a more restricted range of people. So, while the average 65-year-old may well have more wisdom than the average 30-year-old, demographic and social structure factors seem to provide the latter with more opportunity for actually dispensing advice.”

Some scholars have argued that the essence of mattering—the idea that one is meaningful and consequential to other people—is most under threat during late-middle age when many people retire and enter the “empty nest” phase of life, according to Schafer.

“The mattering perspective helps explain why it is this period of the life span, in particular, when it is important for people to feel like they can still have influence on others through actions such as giving advice,” Schafer says. 

I still wouldn't have listened to my mother.



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