How Old Do You Feel, Most of the Time?

October 12, 2021

How Old Do You Feel, Most of the Time?

May 29, 2023

I know this is a loaded question, but here's what the statistics tell us: 80% of people over 40 say they feel younger than their chronological age while fewer than 10% say they feel older. Is this because we want to be hopeful in our "cult of youth" society?

Or is this because we're optimistically intuitive about our bodies? Hey, for all we know, it could be simply because we tend to tell white lies to people who give us surveys?

This New York Times article suggests that "subjective age" is an under-appreciated indicator of a person's physical and mental health state. The question that opens today's post can be a powerful reflection on not just one's current health but also our likely longevity. Here's an excerpt from the article:

"A few intriguing studies suggest that a youthful frame of mind can have a powerful effect. When scientists trick older people into feeling younger, most tend to instantly become more capable. In a 2013 experiment by Dr. Stephan and colleagues, for example, people's grip strength significantly improved after they were told that they were stronger than most people their age. A Chinese study published last November in the journal Aging & Mental Health found that people performed better on a memory task after being told they were sharper than others their age."

All well and good. Think young, and you'll be young. But there's one particular quote in the article that stuck out to me. Let's call it a mic-drop moment: "If old age weren't negatively valued, you wouldn't have the need to say that you feel younger."

However, I much prefer the study that came from Yale's Becca Levy, which offers a line of thinking that suggests when someone in midlife or later adopts a positive perspective on their aging, they—all other variables being equal—live 7.4 additional years of life compared to someone who doesn't have a positive mindset. Becca's studies are foundational to why we started MEA.

On the other hand, maybe we should forget all these academics and their studies and listen to former pro baseball player Satchel Paige who simply asked, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" This athlete philosopher started his Major League baseball career at age 42 and played till almost 60, which is why you might believe him when he says, "Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

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