Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 193–207

Are Older Adults Wiser Than College Students? A Comparison of Two Age Cohorts


DOI: 10.1007/s10804-009-9088-5

Cite this article as:
Ardelt, M. J Adult Dev (2010) 17: 193. doi:10.1007/s10804-009-9088-5


This study examined whether (a) older adults are wiser than college students, (b) college-educated older adults are wiser than current college students, and (c) wise older adults show evidence of personal growth. Using a sample of 477 undergraduate college students and 178 older adults (age 52+), results showed that college students tended to score as high on the self-administered three-dimensional wisdom scale (3D-WS) as older adults. However, college-educated older adults tended to score significantly higher on the reflective and affective dimensions of wisdom and the overall score of the 3D-WS and than did current college students. Qualitative evidence suggests that many older adults, particularly in the top 20% of wisdom scorers, grew wiser with age by learning from life experiences. The results indicate that wisdom might increase with age for individuals with the opportunity and motivation to pursue its development.


WisdomAge differencesCollege educationOlder adultsPersonal growth

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Criminology & LawUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA