It seems to be conventional wisdom that aging leads to conservatism: the aging process makes people more conservative. While there's some evidence to suggest that oldies may become more conservative in the sense that their attitudes and values become more resistant to change, there's none supporting the notice to link age and conservatism.
Even in the sphere of politics, political preferences do not seem to change with age. Churchill got it wrong when he's invited to have said, 'Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains'. If you've lived long enough, you'll know that older and younger generations have always clashed about values. So, it could be that it's not a person's age that is important when it comes to political preference, but rather which generation they belong to. It is very difficult to tell whether it is getting older, being born at a certain time, where you're born, education, lifestyles, and so on that causes people to have different political preferences.
There is, however, some pretty compelling evidence ( Psychology Today) that people become more exaggerated versions of themselves when they age. It could be that people are a bit like wine: the good ones get better with age; the not-so-good ones never improve.
The journal cites three main reasons why conservatism may be linked to older age.
- P ersonality . A review of 92 scientific studies showed that intellectual curiosity tends to decline in old age, and that this decline can explain age-related increases in conservatism and a desire to stay put.
- J udgment . A review of 88 studies in 12 countries shows that older people are more likely to make categorical judgments about events, things, or people. This often involves acting in more prejudicial ways because in older age preserving old knowledge can be more important than acquiring new knowledge.
- F amiliarity . Studies have shown that, in older age, conservatism is positively related to self-esteem.The implication is that remaining open minded when you are old may cause not only counterproductive uncertainty, but also insecure and self-doubt.
Linking age and conservatism is a bit like trying to push a piece of string up a hill. Individual guarantees uniqueness, so personality and political orientation will never be identical for any two individuals. And conservatism is a 'fat' word meaning different things to different people.