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elbanditoroso's avatar

The older you get, the less you trust others - accurate or not?

Asked by elbanditoroso (15249 points ) February 16th, 2012

This came up as part of a conversation with a friend last night.

Her contention was that the older we get (we’re both in our 50s) the more likely we are to distrust/not believe what others say. And not just politicians and government, but even friends and co-workers and even family.

Her view was that we were naive (or perhaps clueless) when we were in our 20s and experiences (good and bad) have caused us to develop a ‘cynical gene’ and take everything anyone says with a grain of salt.

I somewhat agreed with her, but not with the blanket statement. My view is that I have much less trust trust in politicians and ‘authorities’ but that friends – real friends – are always trustworthy or they wouldn’t be life long friends.

Is this a gender thing? (I’m male) Is this a personality thing?

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41 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

One could say that, yes. But it’s still subjective, as a person could have a loving and trusting group of friends or government for a long time.

dabbler's avatar

Questions like this make me cranky ! Now you kids get off my lawn.

tom_g's avatar

I’d love to see data that supports her claim. My suspicion is that this is just not true.

ragingloli's avatar

I have never trusted anyone or anything. Always expect to be stabbed in the back.

dabbler's avatar

Seriously though, seems to me the older folks get, the more tempting it is to get set in your ways. We feel like we’ve learned something about something, and that’s that. Some people definitely succumb to that and just know what they know and never look beyond it. But some of the most curious and unassuming folks I know have been around the sun many many times.

Also if in younger years one were under the influence of naive ideas of everything being groovy, at some point real experiences could prompt you to abandon those, which could seem like becoming cynical. But it’s becoming realistic, more at peace with reality. And more capable of dealing with real life. This learning is real, some things/people are not to be trusted, but as OP notes real friends are more valued than ever.

marinelife's avatar

I trust more now. I trust more in the basic goodness of most people. Because I have had a wider range of experience of people.

I never much trusted what people say. Politicians are always a disappointment. I do tend to trust friends (trust but verify).

digitalimpression's avatar

I think it is entirely experience dependent (whether that is tied to age or not is barely relevant).

janbb's avatar

I think trusting souls tend to stay trusting souls and the same for suspicious folk; it is more of a mindset than age related. However, when it does change, I think it can go either way.

JLeslie's avatar

Nope. As I get older I probably trust more. More experience in people doing the right thing. Plus, young people do more shitty things to each other. They have less of a grasp of the impact they have on others and consequences. As we become older, and our peer group gets older, I think we have better more trusting experiences.

picante's avatar

I crossed the 60 mark last year, and I have a sense that I’m generally more distrustful of people on face value than I was when younger. I think I’ve been fooled too many times.

But that sense seems to be counterbalanced by my deepening appreciation of those people who are constants in my life—those whom I trust implicitly. I also think these attitudes are entirely experience-based, rather than a result of aging per se.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@picante, you pretty much encapsulated the way I feel.

To address your second paragraph – experienced based implies numerous experiences, which itself is a function of longevity. So I think we’re in the same ballpark.

thorninmud's avatar

There are certainly people who get betrayed a few times and draw the conclusion that it’s better to adopt a general attitude of distrust. If the most important thing were to never experience betrayal, if that were what it means to be wise, then that would be a good strategy I guess. But I would argue that there’s much more to wisdom than avoiding getting hurt. Some people get wiser with age, some don’t. Some just get more self-protective.

YoBob's avatar

Actually, it’s rather the opposite for me.

It’s not so much a matter of trusting others. It’s more a matter of incremental refinements in the bullshit filter mechanism.

elbanditoroso's avatar

But @YoBob , aren’t those incremental refinements just another way of saying that your experiences have made you less trusting (hence the need to tweak the bullshit meter)

wundayatta's avatar

Oh dear. I think this all depends on what you think “trust” means. When I say I trust someone, I mean I can predict how they will behave more accurately. I am actually coming to trust people more as I grow older because I know how they will behave. That is to say, that I know they will behave differently from how they say they will behave. But they will do so in a predictable manner.

A politician makes wild promises that he can’t keep. I know he does this to get elected, so I don’t expect him to do what he says he will do. However, I do expect him to want to move in certain directions, insofar as he can, given the compromises he has to make to get anything done.

It’s the same with any contractor. I know they are all wildly over optimistic about their capabilities. They won’t show up for months after they say they will and the job will be ten times harder then they thought it would be, and they’ll want me to pay three times as much as they estimated. That’s the way it is. They aren’t liars. They just don’t know what they are getting into, and they are afraid they won’t get the job if they come in too high.

Friend… same thing, really. Few people can predict the future very well, and so they have a hard time doing what they said they would because unexpected stuff comes up. I understand this now, and so I can trust them more because I know how to discount their word.

I take great pride in being a man of my word. Inf the first place, I never make promises any more. I always couch things in terms of intentions. If I can’t keep my word, I’ll do everything I can to come as close to keeping my word as I can. But mostly I only give my word when I feel there is certainty I can do what I say I will do. Even if there’s an earthquake and the invaders from Mars arrive. That’s about how certain I need to be to make a promise.

YoBob's avatar

No @elbanditoroso, quite the opposite. The refined bullshit filters give me a much better mechanism to judge who is likely to be trustworthy rather than just assuming everyone is totally full of it.

Coloma's avatar

I’d say I am much more discerning, but I trust until given a reason not to.
I’ve been too trusting and rather naive at different times, and, I am aware that I have had a tendency to project my integrity onto some others where it really hasn’t existed, but…I agree, being a naturally trusting person, I still am, but, with a higher degree of wisdom, experience, and discernment. I no longer ignore the red flags when they’re waving wide and high. lol

john65pennington's avatar

In police work, you really cannot trust anyone. Period.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I am also a baby boomer, and I have always been skeptical of people to a degree, but when I was younger I did have the sense that the grown-ups had everything handled. I trusted government and airlines and thought we were protected from foreign invasion. I thought our government knew who was coming into our country and what they were doing here. Now I know better.

boxer3's avatar

Everything is circumstantial as to how I vibe the person, or what their action/words suggest.
I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I act like I don’t.

Pandora's avatar

I think once I learned to not trust people and realized there where bad people, than I was less trusting of others. As I’ve grown older, I learned to evaluate people and know who can and cannot be trusted. So in my case I think it has lessen how much I distrust people. I think, I’m just more frank about my distrust now so to some people they may think I have grown less distrustful. I just hid it better when I was younger because I didn’t want people to avoid me. Plus I wanted to be proven wrong in my distrust. I wanted the world to be rosier than I really thought it was. Now, I simply don’t care if they do or not and I realize the world is more grey than black and white. Motives aren’t always clear.

Ron_C's avatar

I’m almost 65 and trusting other people has never been a problem. That is until a few weeks ago. I was very poorly treated in our local hospital, essentially tortured, then thrown out without medical help to relieve a terrible constant pain.

That left me mistrusting everyone and I think with a touch of PTSD.

wilma's avatar

Very well said @Pandora , and I think that I am much the same way.
I am probably more frank and open about my mistrust of someone, where when I was young I would have been afraid to say so.
I think it goes along with the “I really don’t care what people think of me” attitude that I have acquired as I have gotten older.

gondwanalon's avatar

Excuse me for being a little jumpy from being sucker-punched too many times.

I think that gender doesn’t have much to do with this. Age is a big factor in that the older that we get the more likely it is that we have had bad experiences such as being cheated, lied to, betrayed etc. As we learn the lessons from being abused in this way, we become more and more skeptical and hopefully more able to see through the deceit that is presented to us in the future. I hate to be all pessimistic but the earlier in life that we learn not to be trusting of others (especially people trying to sell us stuff and people in power) then better off we will be. At age 61, I’ve been down this road many times but I’m still learning. Yes I’m still more gullible and trusting than I wish that I was. Perhaps I’ll get it right some day.

janbb's avatar

@gondwanalon I’m 61 and I’m pretty glad that I’m still gullible and trusting . Chacun a son gout.

JLeslie's avatar

I was thinking about this more, and I think as we get older we are more selective about who we spend our time with, so our circles should contain very few untrustworthy people hopefully. The people who are my friends or family who are not very trustworthy, I don’t do things with them that give them opportunity to dissappoint me. Like I have a relative I don’t trust with money. I would never do business with him or plan to get paid back if he needed some money. Another relative has trouble making commitments, I have stopped trying to plan things with her, if she shows up, great.

When it comes to strangers, well I left my purse at a rest stop on I75 in Georgia two weeks ago, and someone turned it in, and when it was returned to me my over $400 was in my bag along with two pairs of expensive sunglasses, some medication, and my credit cards. When I lost my earing in Macy’s a few years ago, they had it for me waiting when I returned a couple days later to see if they found it. 9 years ago when I met one of the new sales agents at the real estate brokerage I worked at, we hit it off, met for lunch one day, and decided to work together. I had a wonderful partnership with her, I trust her completely, we never had to worry about who wrote up the contract, we split everything, we shared the work well, and covered for each other while we were on vacations. I have so many experiences of people being trustworthy and just basically good people, they far outweigh the bad.

Also, teens and 20 year olds who cheated on girlfriends and boyfriends, many times grow up into adults who are very committed in their marriages. Once people have children I think a lot of people also change, the world is scene from a different perspective, and people become better, to be better examples.

Lastly, pay it forwards I think betters the world. Once you have someone do something amazing and unexpected for you, it usually makes the receiver want to do that for someone else. Young people usually are not in touch with this, but as we get older we see it happening all around us. At least I did.

flutherother's avatar

It gets harder to make friends as we get older because there is a loss of trust. People no longer seem as straightforward as they used to. You begin to appreciate how complex their motivations are and how many allegiances they already have. The friends I made when young I still trust as much as ever and I trust my family and I trust my children.

YARNLADY's avatar

I don’t think this is true. I have discovered that there are more trustworthy people in this world than the other kind.

Also, older people are targeted more by scammers because they are more trusting.

punkrockworld's avatar

I think it has more to do with past experiences rather than age. But oftentimes the older you are, the more experience you have.

saint's avatar

The older I get, the more inclined I am to trust people until they give me a reason not to.

saint's avatar

Not that I am that old

dabbler's avatar

I’m inclined to believe you!

Coloma's avatar

I have the worlds most trustworthy attorney and auto mechanic….now THAT is worth noting. lol

ragingloli's avatar

@Coloma
those 2 are the antithesis to trustworthy.

Coloma's avatar

@ragingloli Exactly..that’s why I recognize their value. :-)
Over 5 years with both and I am very convinced of their integrity in multiple situations.
Trust is earned, and they have earned it. ;-)

john65pennington's avatar

2nd Answer.

Because of some elderly peoples mental condition, they should not trust anyone with their money or physical objects.

Sunny2's avatar

As a skeptic since I was six years old, I am now even more of a skeptic, but I’m not indignant any more. I tend to be disappointed rather than angry at what I consider to be idiotic nonsense, but I’m not as confrontative as I once was. That’s part of the wisdom of old age.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

I would not put it that way. I would say the older we get the wiser we are and that wisdom helps us choose the right people to trust.

AshLeigh's avatar

I think as you get older you are less blind to the red flags. You are more able to pick out the reasons that certain people can not be trusted. With time, and experience you learn what is suspicious, and what isn’t.
I am only sixteen, but I have almost always known who I could trust, and who I could not.
Trust, for me, is a hard thing to receive, and an even harder thing to give.

augustlan's avatar

I think it’s mostly a personality thing. If you’ve always been distrustful, you probably become more so as you age.

gondwanalon's avatar

@janbb Que sera sera. Je vous souhaite bonne chance avec votre philosophie de la vie. C’est la vie, cherchez la femme!

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