I don’t usually write about — or even admit to — aging as it affects me, but after reading an article in the New York Times, “What Old Monkeys and Old Humans Have in Common,” I think it’s time we talked about getting old, and what we can expect as far as behavior changes specific to aging. Researchers are studying Barbary macaque monkeys in retirement (about age 20). From their work, we can see what we might become if we haven’t already become it.
Monkeys and humans get pickier as they get older and less interested in trying new things. Humans might eat at the same restaurant again and again. We might create schedules that call for doing certain things on particular days, for example, dine out on Wednesdays, go grocery shopping on Fridays, and clean the house on Sundays. We might get cranky around strangers (I’m assuming this means that we’ve already gotten cranky around our loved ones and have just extended this to strangers later in life).
Monkeys and humans tend to socialize less as they get older. Monkeys pay attention to what’s going on around them, “but they don’t want to participate themselves.” Some days humans don’t feel like socializing, and map out a day around watching TV…alone. Both humans and monkeys tend to take fewer risks as they age.
We humans are aware that we only have so much time left and prefer to spend it in the ways we choose. No one attributes this awareness to monkeys, so researchers are looking for the roots of our common behaviors in biology. Meanwhile, if we want to know more about what to expect, we can hang out at the zoo and observe the monkey elders.