On ageing ….

I want to share a couple of sections from my forthcoming book (on its way to my editor by the end of the week to enter pre-publication), and I’d be delighted in any comments you have.

1: How old are you in your head?

Gerontology researchers will ask people ‘how old do you feel?’, and most people who answer respond physically, considering any ailments and the effect on them. A different question is ‘How old are you, in your head’. Danish research[1] has said that, with adults over 40, on average, people give an age of about 20 percent younger than their chronological age.

Someone of 76 immediately says 45. A woman of 53 says 36 and can talk about her positive experiences of life at that time. A man of 53 says 35, this was the age when he was happy with his life questions. We can also be frozen at an earlier life due to some unhappy or traumatic life experiences.

This tends to be a western phenomenon with a greater difference between chronological and subjective age with people from the US, Western Europe and Australia/Oceania and lowest in Africa[2].

The age we say is our subjective age. This seems to link to optimism, rather than to deny our age, if we feel younger, we act younger, and don’t let things stop us.

Viewing ourselves as younger, and a belief that we are still useful and valuable is a positive, and it doesn’t need a reliance on subjective age. There are a good number of people, me included, who are happy to be the age we are, we welcome the wisdom gained, the lessons learned.

With a chronological age of 65, I could say my subjective age is 52, this was a time when I was successful in work, at my happy weight and my relationship was positive. I’m however very happy to tell people my age, to own my age and to not let anything stop me doing, or being what I can be. I still have long term plans and have a positive vision of myself.

I’d love to learn your thoughts on this.

2: We really are younger than in previous generations

Some interesting research compared people, aged 75-80 who were born 28 years apart.[3] They found that the second cohort had better physical functioning: walking 0.2-0.4miles per second faster; a 5-25 percent increase in grip strength and their knee extension strength increased by 20-47 percent.  This is evidence that we are healthier for longer. And we can reap these benefits if we stay physically active. There is also evidence that education helps us to live more healthier, we eat better and we know more about nutrition.


[1] https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.3758/BF03193996.pdf

[2] Pinquart, M., & Wahl, H.-W. (2021). Subjective age from childhood to advanced old age: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 36(3), 394–406

[3] Kaisa Koivunen, MSc, Elina Sillanpää, PhD, Matti Munukka, PhD, Erja Portegijs, PhD, Taina Rantanen, PhD, Cohort Differences in Maximal Physical Performance: A Comparison of 75- and 80-Year-Old Men and Women Born 28 Years Apart, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 76, Issue 7, July 2021, Pages 1251–1259