Are Older Jurors a Plus or a Minus?
Memory versus Maturity
There is a reality to the decline of memory with age. Starting in middle-age the mental hard drive starts to fill up with enough "stuff" to make it harder-to-reach the archives. A dinner party of over 50 somethings may need the entire group to recall the star of a movie they all saw two years before.
If being a juror was equivalent to playing a game of Trivial Pursuit, perhaps older jurors would be a problem for the jury. But litigation is not Trivial Pursuit.
Despite the hard drive issues, studies indicate a number of ways in which the brain actually improves with age. Older jurors tend to have a greater capacity for empathy because empathy is learned through experience and enriched as we age.
Whereas younger jurors may have better quick draw memory, older jurors have a much broader set of experiences to draw on. Older jurors tend to see the big picture and overall patterns with greater maturity than their younger counterparts.
Litigation is typically about a set of facts that raises a unique moral question of responsibility, accountability and/or valuation. Older jurors may be said to be particularly well suited to deal with these issues of litigation.
Possible lack of competency of older jurors because of memory issues is not a frequent problem in the courtroom.
Some litigation, obviously, may differentially impact age groups due to attitudinal or cultural differences. People who grew up listening to radio are going to relate to the world somewhat differently compared to those who grew up watching TV or those who grew up tethered to a computer keyboard, playing video games.
For example, litigation involving touch screen technology intellectual property may draw on experiences and attitudes creating meaningful distinctions between Generation Y (born after 1982) and Pre-Boomer (born before 1945) jurors.
But these are the kinds of issues of experiential, attitudinal and worldview differences that inform jury selection in any legal case, not issues of juror competency.