‘Old age’ starts later than ever, study reveals

Women tend to report old age starting two years later than men

'Age-Positivity' Could Be the Key to a Long Life

If you’re starting to feel “old,” here’s some news that might put a spring back in your step: Middle-aged and older adults believe the onset of “old age” is happening later in life compared to what their peers thought decades ago, according to new research.

The study, published by the American Psychological Association, analyzed data from more than 14,000 Germans born between 1911 and 1974.

Over the course of 25 years, from 1996 to 2021, participants were asked multiple times, “At what age would you describe someone as old?” The results were eye-opening.

Researchers discovered that later-born participants consistently reported a later perceived onset of old age compared to their earlier-born counterparts.

For example, when participants born in 1911 were 65 years old, they considered old age to begin at 71. However, when they reached the same milestone, those born in 1956 believed old age starts at 74.

The study also examined how individual characteristics influence the perception of old age. Interestingly, women tend to report old age starting two years later than men, and this gender gap has been widening over time.

Additionally, factors such as loneliness, poor health and feeling older were associated with an earlier perceived onset of old age.

“It is unclear to what extent the trend towards postponing old age reflects a trend towards more positive views on older people and aging, or rather the opposite — perhaps the onset of old age is postponed because people consider being old to be an undesirable state,” study author Dr. Markus Wettstein said in a news release.

As we navigate an aging population, understanding our perceptions of aging is just as important, as emphasized by the study author. So, the next time you’re told you’re “getting old,” keep in mind the onset might be starting later than you think.