Two important questions are addressed in this article. The first concerns whether performance of well-learned skills is maintained as individuals grow older. The second question concerns whether older adults are able to acquire new skills. The answer to both questions is “yes”; however, the acquisition rate and the final performance level for newly acquired skills is generally less for older adults than for younger adults. The article resolves an apparent puzzle of how it is that older adults are capable of successful performance of everyday activities, given noted declines in cognitive-ability-type tasks shown for performance in laboratory studies. A brief discussion of age-related training strategies to enhance skill learning is provided.
The authors are with the School of Psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0170.