I'll admit I'm right in the generational neighborhood with ya...and 'chord theory', particularly as it relates to stringed and/or fretted instruments, made very little sense to me at first. And I still don't see chords from that perspective. My mind sees the chords as sets of notes -- and the numbers they represent in a specific scale. The position of those notes on a fretboard varies with the instrument as well as its tuning (i.e. 'Drop D'), so certain rules would apply to one instrument type, but not necessarily another. It's good to have those positional or spatial relationships cemented in your physical memory because it makes chord changes and augmentations easier when you hear those changes coming.
The first time I heard someone hollering "ONE!" "FOUR!" "FIVE!" during a jam, It was a real eye-opener. I'd heard of the Circle of Fifths by that time, but not the application of it in real-life situations. Since then, having to transcribe music and determine which chords would contribute the most to the arrangement forced me to figure stuff out. It was then that the chord "rules" started to matter to me. Major = 1,3,5. Minor = 1, b3, 5. Sus4 = 1,4,5. Dominant 7 = 1,3,5 b7. Major 7 = 1,3,5,7. Minor 7 = 1,b3,5,7.
This has nothing to due with jazz improv, but if I'm heading out to a session it's helpful to know that if a song is being played in the key of D, I'm going to need major chords D, G and A (and their variants) if it's a major tune. If it drifts into the minor, I know I'll need B minor, E minor and F# minor.