Most retired people don’t think of themselves as old. While their friend might be old, or a sibling, or even their spouse, in their minds, they often then of themselves as they did in youth. When we think of old, it’s generally a negative thing, which is surprising since it’s been shown many seniors are much happier than their young adult counterparts. How we perceive old age, it turns out, varies. Since we live a lot longer than we used to, it’s not easy to understand why what was once seemingly old, doesn’t know. A study by a Michigan State University scholar found some interesting ideas about how we look at aging.
Speaking with more than half a million Americans, the Michigan scholar set out to find data about how we view old age, at every age. What’s old? The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, surveyed a cross-section of 502,548 people aged 10 to 89. The findings concluded that we continually change our idea about what old age is, in terms of years, but the way it changes isn’t what you may think.
Teens and young adults in their 20s believe that a 50-year-old is officially old. When you’re young, that’s more than, or about, twice your age, and perhaps it’s hard to think of life that far along. That number is about as old, or slightly older, than their parents, and we all know kids think their parents are generally pretty old. If that depresses you, brace yourself, because 30,000 people in the study believe that middle age starts at 30. The ages of these people weren’t mentioned, however, one guesses this belief belongs to the younger set.
However, on the bright side, despite their feeling that most of us are over the hill, when asked how old they’d like to live to be, they said they hoped to live into their early 90s. What’s interesting is the 30 and 40 year-olds said they want to live only to about 88 years-old.
But then things change. Answers skewed to show that the older we get, the higher that terrible elderly moniker climbs in years. Perceptions of old age get pushed farther and farther away from us. So in the group surveyed, the 50 to 80 year-olds said they hope to live until about 93, on average. That’s the highest yet! So the good news is that even as we age, we want to continue living. It doesn’t matter whether you view 50 as old, middle-aged, or young, no matter what, you’re always going to still think you’re pretty youthful. Nothing wrong with that!