As we age, our strength, quickness, and endurance decrease, which degrades our defense abilities. However, as we age our knowledge and experience increase, which increases our defense ability. Sometimes wisdom and experience can make up for the ravages of age. In addition, age has another physical advantage over youth—the ability to grasp the big picture visually. Older persons become more aware of their surroundings.
Research has shown that older people have improved skill in tracking peripheral movement; they are better able to comprehend the total image of events unfolding around them. This skill is advantageous in a multi-person confrontation, when moving around in a street environment, or even on a sporting field.
Research at McMaster’s University in Ontario, Canada, published in the February 2005 issue of Neuron, tested young adult college students against adults in their 60s and 70s. One test measured how quickly subjects processed information on the sideways movement of vertical bars seen on the screen of a computer. Younger subjects took less time in detecting sideways motion when the bars were small or low in contrast, but when the bars were large or high in contrast, older subjects performed better.
These results show a difference in how signals are processed in the younger versus older brains. Differences in brain chemistry allow younger brains to concentrate one thing while filtering out non-useful information within their field of vision. For example, a child can quickly find a desired toy in a clutter room while the adult is distracted by the clutter.
As people age, it is more difficult for them to concentrate on any single thing and ignore everything else. The benefit is that they become more visually aware of everything around them. In a crowded room, younger people are able to concentrate on one conversation and reject all the other conversations around them while older people tend to be distracted by other conversations. While talking to one person, they notice what is being said everywhere else in the room.
When on the street, younger people tend to concentrate on one thing while being oblivious to their surroundings. Bad guys take advantage of this. At a coffee bar, a thief can steal a young person's briefcase while he or she is concentrating on a laptop computer screen and the person will not notice it. On the other hand, an older person will constantly be distracted by movements around him or her. This may cause it to take longer for the person to comprehend what is on the computer screen, but it helps prevent a thief from getting too close with being noticed.