Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Old is Old Age

Does age matter to end of life decisions? June 30, 2009, 1:35 pm
How Old Is Old Age?

How old do you feel? And how old will you be when you reach old age?

The public’s views on age and aging are explored in a new national survey on aging from the Pew Research Center, explained in a story by my colleague Sarah Arnquist.

Most adults over age 50 feel at least 10 years younger than their actual age, the survey found. One-third of those between 65 and 74 said they felt 10 to 19 years younger, and one-sixth of people 75 and older said they felt 20 years younger.

And at what age does old age begin? Most people in the survey said old age starts at age 68. Are they kidding? That seems way too young to me. Not surprisingly, most people over 65 have a different idea about old age. Among those getting the senior citizen discount, most say old age begins at 75.

Now consider the answer given by people under 30. Most of them think you’re old by the time you hit 60, Ms. Arnquist reports.

Read the full story, “How Old Do You Feel? It Depends on Your Age.” Be sure to listen to the audio to the left that features people of various ages explaining how they define old age.

And at what age do you think old age begins?


  1. Similar to the people of various ages who offered their opinion regarding old age, it cannot truly be defined. Life experiences and being old differ for all people. I do not think there is a specific age where one is considered "old", however there are various situations that are regularly associated with old age. For example ill health and the inability to take care of oneself may cause some to look at a person as old. However, this is not the case for all. Therefore, every person can decide for himself when he considers himself old. It may be when he or she finds himself in a situation where they are the only ones in this age group. OR when a person realizes his taste in music, television, style, etc. has become outdated. OR possibly when a person is no longer able to do the things he enjoys, such as running, dancing, gardening. I cannot give an age where old age begins, because I do not feel old, I can only provide ideas that may contribute to feeling old.

    -Kat Schwan

  2. Before reading the article and listening to the audio of the people of various ages defining what they think old age is. I would have said old age is when you hit 60 similar to what was said above, "Now consider the answer given by people under 30. Most of them think you’re old by the time you hit 60." However age cannot be defined or everyone has their own definition of old age. As the commentators stated their varied opinions, I also agree that old age should be determined and classified by the person themselves. Old age could be in a state of when a person is not in sync with the current trends, if the person cannot take care of themselves, or do physical/mental things they have always enjoyed. Old age can be specified by these categories, but in the end that person is the one can make that decision. Also, there are people who just never believe in old age and act however they want in their lives. For example there are individuals who act "young at heart" though they are 80 for example. This is determination all depends on the person.

    -Stephanie Joe

  3. A friend and I were considering this just the other day before class. We recalled our elementary school days, when middle schoolers ruled the playground and life after this stage seemed incomprehensibly far away. On several different occasions, I have babysat young children who have asked me, "how old are you? Are you a mom?" and am startled, even at what is considered a "young" age, that I could ever look like a mom to that small child!

    It's amazing how time flies, and as my parents age and move towards their sixties, I refuse to believe that they are aging; that they will reach "old age". As the article said, it's so hard to grapple with the unknown; with aging comes (from a purely subjective perspective) disease and the decline of independence. However, as they age, so do I; so does my world and my classmates and my siblings. To think of aging as a process we all go through, together, may make the issue more tangible and approachable to both young and old.

    We are all aging, and I hope that the stigma associated with aging declines as the huge population of baby boomers ages together.

    Alisa Davidoff

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  5. The definition of old age is definitely up to debate as this article portrays as does my personal experience. One of my previous jobs and my current job offers a “senior citizen” discount and the reactions to this vary widely. I rarely offer it directly because it can lead to awkward situations in which most people don’t consider themselves to be old enough to be considered a senior citizen. Some people are happy, feeling that they have worked hard and earned this right. Many people are surprised to find that they appear old enough to qualify for such a thing.
    The younger adults’ perceptions of old age from the article were very funny as they had to do with cultural and social things such as dance moves and music rather than a number. The fourteen year old’s depiction of old age as when one can no longer take care of oneself is an interesting definition of old age. From the interviews it seems that old age is a social construct.
    Just as a 5 year old sees a teen as very old, age all depends on your angle. I remember being 8 and knowing thinking how a 10 year old looks drastically older than an 8 year old, but now at 20 I see those differences less.
    Old age depends on how you compare yourself and who you compare yourself to. In 2050, when 1 in 5 Americans are over 65 the comparison pool will be overall older which will make the older people feel yet younger.

  6. I believe old age begins around the age of seventy-five but varies widely based on personal experience. I have worked with the elderly in a physical therapy clinic and have viewed both individuals who view themselves as older and individuals who view themselves as younger than they are. In my experience individuals who do not have very good social support systems view themselves as older than they are. These individuals typically have more mysterious aliments and appear to enjoy coming to therapy just to get out of their homes. On the other hand, individuals who have extensive support systems are typically more optimistic regarding their age. These individuals are often more willing to put the effort into their treatment so they can return to their everyday lives. I have also witnessed that such individuals are also the individuals who do not pity themselves, regardless of their actual age. They typically heal faster, even from deadly diseases such as cancer.
    I believe that old age is in the eye of the beholder. Also, I think that social supports play an important role in influencing how old an individual feels.

  7. I love this article because it really hits home. As a 20 year old, I find myself definitely struggling with the idea of age - stuck between being too young for adulthood, but too old to be a kid. Aging is one of my biggest fears; I cringe when I meet anyone born in the 2000's, in awe that they are old enough to speak. I anticipate when the clothes I wear and the things I say will be outdated. Kids already don't know the Backstreet Boys and Spice girls! Ok so I went off on a tangent. I guess my point is that I already feel old. With every year we age we arrive at a new place and leave some of our youth behind. We always look to those ahead of us in the aging process as a preview to what is to come. By the article, we are more negative about the future than those who are already there. And those who we think are there (old age), don't feel / think that they are. So who is to say who is old and who isn't? There is no way to subjectively determine this. Right now I would arbitrarily say that around 70 is old age - but ask me that when I'm 65 and I will probably have a different answer.
    -Jess Safer

  8. I believe age depends on personality. I know 70 year olds who are more full of life and act younger than some 20 year olds I know. Whenever I see that popular greeting card that reads "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" it always makes me think. I still feel young. Just a few years ago I thought that graduating college meant become a real adult and that 65 meant you were "old." Now that I am getting older I am realizing these lines aren't so much lines as they are very grey circles. My sister is two years out of college, and is still very much the same girl as she was while attending school. Of course she has a real job now and doesn't attend as many themed parties but I don't think of her as much older than me. I always thought people in college were so grown-up and mature but as I babysit and hang out with my younger cousins, I realize we all aren't that different. Adults always complain about being bogged down and miss the days when they were kids, to able to play outside and have fun. But, adults can play outside and they can have fun, too. If a person wants to be youthful, they can. Age depends on the individual. I would say I feel 17, the age of newfound independence and excitement, curious to try new things but still attached to her home. Hopefully, I will never reach old age in my mind. Hopefully, I will always be playing games and having fun. I think a significant aspect of staying young is staying connected with others. Whether you're with family, friends, or a stranger you just met, communicating with others is one of the best ways to be happy and have a feeling of purpose. "Old age" is more of a choice than an inevitable cloud hanging over one's head. I guess what I'm trying to say is... age really is just a number.

    Hannah Emily Nichols

  9. if I was asked ten years ago to describe an old person, I would have considered anyone over the age of 30, or a "grown-up," as old. As I grew older, I began to realize that age is just a number and not a determining factor in one's character. Attitude and personality are two of the biggest influences on how one is perceived. For example, someone whom I feel extremely close to is my 74 year old great-aunt. She is full of such positive energy and happiness, that it's hard to differentiate the fun times I have with her in comparison to those with friends my own age. I know plenty of my peers who don't know the meaning of "fun"; in my opinion, this makes them seem boring and older than an actual 74 year old. I think many people feel as though once they enter a generation where things such as new music and technologies exist, they have become "outdated." They allow themselves to conform to society's stereotype of their specific age group. However, if a 74 year old can have the same mentality and outlook on life as a 20 year old, why should the word "old" differentiate the two?

  10. If you were to ask me how old is “old,” I would say that there are two definitions of old. The first definition is how old someone feels socially, while the second definition is how old someone feels physically. Being a senior in college, applying to graduate schools, watching my friends apply to jobs, and seeing freshmen three years younger than me walking the streets of Comm. Ave., I feel old socially. I think back to the kindergarteners I used to babysit when I was in 8th grade, and think that they are now seniors in high school, and I feel terribly old. However, when I see people who have developed health conditions simply because of their age, I feel so young. I feel healthy, energized, and optimistic. I do not feel old at all, and I think that is much more important than how old you perceive yourself socially.

  11. There is no specific age that can define what "old age" actually is. Although the survey and the audio tape illustrates that most people believe there is a certain age that is considered old, it is really different for everyone. Instead of saying age 60 is considered old, like what the people under 30 said, it is instead the time when the body and mind have evolved to its peak. The younger adults who thought old age began at 60 Old age is different for everyone; some people age faster than others due to the fact that everyone maintains their health differently. It was interesting that the older adults over age 65 thought old age begins when they hit 75. Although there should be no specific age that defines what old is, I do believe that the human body begins to work at a much slower pace at age 75. Old age onset varies for everyone and this is because there are no specific characteristics that would indicate a specific year. What deciphers your opinion on old age onset is your own individual mentality about life. For example, my grandmother’s brother is now 98 years old and still living an energetic life and just created a Facebook. If you feel good, regardless of your actual age, then you may feel that old age will never happen to you until you are laying on your deathbed.

  12. Like the old saying goes age is nothing but a number. "Old age" then becomes strictly subjective. How does our society define "old" in itself? "Old" is incredibly subjective as humans these days live to an average age of 80 years old where only a couple decades ago the average age may have been several scores younger. Humans are going to live even longer than the future so the idea of old age will only continue to change. Personally I think old age legally starts at 65 but realistically old age starts when that "old person" thinks it does. I have seen 70 and 80 year olds at the nursing home where I worked be more vibrant and energetic than many teenagers! I think a "old age" hits when a person is no longer living their life to the fullest and having a fun, until then everyone is young at heart. Also a thing to consider is that when you expand the timeline long enough everythings life expectancy drops, so when you consider old age consider what time line you are using as well.

    -Juan Castro

  13. "Old Age" is a relative term and can't be defined for society or a community as a whole. As has already been pointed out by everyone's comments, the article and the video commentary, the older we get, the later we push the age that "oldness" begins. However, I would like to look at this from another perspective. "Old age" is pushed back the later in life we live, as long as we are living healthy lives. This is not the case for most Americans. In fact, because of the unhealthy activities and lifestyles that the majority of Americans live by (obesity, smoking, alcohol or drug use), our bodies may actually feel older than they are chronologically. I hate to refer to my mom's favorite show that she over-quotes, but I definitely think it applies here: As Dr. Oz says, your Real Age is the biological age of your body based on how well you have maintained it and your health. Therefore, a 35 year old may say that she feels like she is ten years younger because of her partying habits, alcohol consumption, and being able to eat fast food without gaining weight. However, all of these things would factor into her RealAge, affecting her cholesterol, blood pressure, risk for diabetes and other later in life diseases or health complications thereby, her body would think she is up to five years OLDER than her chronological age. Therefore, I would argue that old age begins when you stop taking care of your body and the health affects of being older start to settle in. Because, let's face it. You may feel like you are 25 at heart, but if you are in the hospital because you just had a massive stroke... biology doesn't agree with you.
    -Michelle Pruchniewski

  14. All people view age in different ways, whether it is by one's physical age, mental age, emotional age- there are a variety of ways to define what age is as applied to each individual. One fact, for certain, is that age represents a growth, or an increase, of some extent. The life expectancy of the average person has increased significantly, though gradually, over the past years and the concept and limit of "old age" has been lengthened as a result. The national survey on aging suggests that the majority of people over the age of 50 feel younger and those over 65 view old age as beginning at later ages, such as 75. This is very different from how the younger people view old age, which is said to begin at age 60. These differing opinions are due partly to the varying accumulations of experiences and also the separate life stages that both groups are in. Younger people have not experienced as much as older people and therefore don't know as much about life. The quantity and quality of life experiences impact how people feel about age. The more that people have experienced and accomplished, the more appropriate they are likely to feel about their ages. Similarly, those who have not experienced as much tend to feel as though they haven't really lived out their lives to the fullest extent, causing them to view age from a much different perspective. Also, although age 60 may seem old to those under 30, it certainly doesn't feel as old to those who are 59 with an upcoming birthday and current good health. Health is a big factor in how people feel about their age; it is easy to feel young when you feel good physically. Good health contributes to one's overall physical and mental well-being and causes less stress upon everyone, enabling one to feel more youthful. The combination of health, experiences, and other factors all contribute to the varying perceptions of age in people of different generations.

    -Danielle Choi