A few weeks ago, a friend forwarded an article from USA Today that I thought was interesting and worth mentioning on the blog. The article referenced a study that asked people from different age groups at what point they thought “old age” began. Not surprisingly, the responses varied significantly and there was no real agreement on a specific number.
What was interesting is that when asked, the answers that were given were dependent on the age of the person responding. For example, the article states that more than half of those under 30 say the average person becomes old before 60; those who were middle age stated the point was at 70; and those age 65 and older say “old age” does not occur until 75. This is a great example of how perspectives on this issue can change as we grow older. For instance, I remember when I was 15, I thought someone who was 40 years old was ancient. Now, only a few years away from 40, I have a totally different opinion! The research seems to show that this same pattern is present throughout the life span. As different milestones are reached (30, 40, 50, etc.), we have a tendency to redefine how we think of them because we don’t see ourselves as fitting with the stereotypes that we have historically associated with that particular age group.
Another interesting finding is that those who were in the older age groups responded that they did not feel as though they were “old”. For example, among respondents ages 65-74, just 21% said they felt old, and out of those 75 and older who were polled, only 35% reported feeling old. Partly what is happening, it appears, is that the realities of growing older are changing. The medical field has made tremendous strides in the diagnosis and management of medical problems, as well as identified several practices associated with living healthier and longer lives. Individuals are also making efforts to stay more mentally engaged in activities that they find enjoyable, a practice which has also been found to provide certain health benefits. As a result, older adults are taking better care of themselves and avoiding many of the negative health issues that have historically led to limitations in functioning.
For more information on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically, feel free to visit the APA Help Center website. No matter what your age, remember, it is only a number. The most important thing is to make sure you take advantage of each and every moment you are given.
Dr. Chip Long