When we were younger, anyone over the age of 30 was old. Like old. But once we grow up, we learn that age is relative. We’re all older than someone and younger than someone else. So, these days, in the modern age of medicine, the wellness movement and people in the west living longer than before…is age relative?
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What is “old age”?
For the purpose of measuring and quantifying statistics, the term old age in North America is usually marked at 60 or 65 years of age. Statistics are just buckets of data, so how does this apply to us? According to the ACL.gov website, here are some applicable “old-age stats”. Click this link to see the full fact sheet:
- In 2020, a larger percentage of older men (70%) than older women (48%) were married.
- Of older adults, 65+ living in a community, 61% lived with their spouse/partner in 2020. About 27% lived alone.
- The 2019 median income of older persons was $27,398 ($36,921 for men and
$21,815 for women).
- The median household income of older homeowners was $36,200 in 2019.
- In 2020, 9.8 million 65+ Americans were in the labor force (working or actively
Statistics help us to understand percentages of population, what specific groups may need, and what power they wield (Click here to read the article 7 Things to Know About The Silver Economy).
But does this mean that at the mark of 60, we magically turn “old”? Absolutely not.
How is age relative?
Interesting studies have been done when it comes to aging and who we consider to be “old”. Most often, teenagers consider 30 old and people under 30 will say that 60 is old. But middle-aged people are more likely to say that closer to 70 is old. Then again, when people 60+ are asked, they are even more likely to say that over 75 years old is old.
Einstein’s theory of special relativity says that time is relative, meaning that it is perspective. If time depends on perspective, then “age” must be too. Could it be?
We’ve all known young older people and old young people. People who acted or behaved in a way that we associated with being younger or older than the person’s numerical age. And not much ages a person harshly than someone who is resentful of getting older; blindly focused on the past and why the “now” is worse than we they were younger.
It’s a matter of perspective
All of these things point to the number of years you’ve accumulated being less important to how you live them. What if the magical Fountain of Youth that Ponce de Leon sought was simple perspective? Being gracious, present and at peace with your life, no matter how many years you’ve already got invested.
Remember summer breaks from school when we were young? They lasted forever. As we age, we notice the speeding up of time. The last 10, 15, even 20 years have flown by. But anyone who has studied meditation will know that living in each present moment is the key. In fact, Pedram Shojal, in his book, The Art of Stopping Time, shows us tips and tricks to ‘stopping time’ by being mindful and present. This effectively can revive the feeling we had as young students on summer break and help us to re-evaluate our perspective of time (and therefore) age.
Many women cringe at the first time they were ever called ma’am. Even for those of us who never drank alcohol, getting asked for “ID” was always a badge of honor. We have these odd social customs that mark years; some of them feel flattering and some of them feel insulting, depending on where on the spectrum we fall.
The term ‘senior citizen’ was first used commonly in North America in the 1930’s and became more common over the next few decades. It started as a reference to the senior citizens of a particular community, used in the same way we would use “senior” executive. Keep in mind the life expectancy back in the 30s was approximately 63.
Over the years, it became more of an all encompassing term for ‘old person’, than a reference to a wiser and older member of the community. In the last few decades, a large part of the older population seems to prefer “senior” (without the citizen). At least that beats the previously used “Old Age Pensioner”.
Other terms for that era of our lives include: The 2nd Act, Golden Years, advanced years, long-lived, elder or elderly (although no one can state at what age one becomes elderly).
No matter the years we’ve accumulated, it’s all perspective. Even young people don’t have the guarantee of “tomorrow”. The key for all of us is how we see aging, how we experience time and how we feel on the inside.
As Bruce Willis once said, “Everyone is about 24 or 25 in their heart”.
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