Young at heart take note: Biological age, which refers to the age that someone feels as opposed to the number of years they have been alive (chronological age), is gaining more credibility as a useful health measure among medical professionals.
Although various factors influence whether or not someone feels especially young or old, the majority of people start feeling old around the age of (drum roll, please) 47.
All of the participants involved in the report were over the age of 40 at the start of the analysis, and nearly four in five (77%) said that they feel younger than their chronological age. More than half (55%) even see their “younger selves” when they look in the mirror.
What does it mean to be old?
For the respondents, aging was defined by three principal markers: the inability to perform certain functions with ease, a lack of understanding of topical pop-culture references, and cosmetic decay (wrinkles, graying hair, etc.).
Sixty-one percent of respondents said that having to ask someone to read small print/squinting to be able to see small print are unmistakable signs of getting older—even if only 29% of the same group perceived being prescribed reading glasses as a definitive sign of aging.
Hearing a familiar song on the “oldies” station (43%), involuntarily grunting while getting out of a seat (37%), seeing a celebrity they’ve never heard of (33%), having trouble seeing in a dimly lit room (26%), and not being on TikTok (24%) were other factors that made participants feel older than their chronological age.
Still. 47% of the participants are uncomfortable with identifying as an older person and more than a third say they get offended if someone else calls them old.
People are so worried about being perceived as old they confessed to ignoring medical professionals if wrinkles (40%), back pain (38%), and or stiff joints (34%) are a part of the conversation.
Roughly 43% said that they assume their age-induced ailments will eventually go away on their own.
How to maintain a sense of youth
Previously conducted research has shown that reduced stress and diet — and increased amounts of sleep — can help people feel younger than their chronological age.
Dr. John Day of John Hopkins University recently outlined three ways to make the aging process as seamless as possible by slowing the shortening of telomeres. Telomeres are compound structures found at the end of our chromosomes. The more times our cells copy themselves the shorter telomeres become, causing cells to age and lose some of their functioning.
- Manage Stress: Dr. Day cited a study that determined that prolonged stress prematurely aged the telomeres of the participants involved in the report by roughly 10 years. The authors noted that meditation and mindfulness techniques may counteract this effect.
- Exercise: Data has shown that habitual exercise can dramatically slow telomere aging by reducing oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
- Diet: The Mediterranean diet in particular has a long-established relationship with health and longevity. A recent meta-review conducted by a team of Harvard researchers concluded that a diet rich with olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish; minimized red meats and processed meats; and a moderate amount of cheese and wine was associated with longer telomeres among the study sample.
“The simple lifestyle decisions we make every day determine whether or not our bodies age fast or slow,” Dr. Jay concluded. “For those with “high mileage” bodies, you can quickly shave ten or more years off your biological age. By making these changes now, we can reverse our biological age and dramatically slow the overall aging process. We can start growing younger today.”