Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate

When do you consider someone to be “old”? When do you think you will officially be “old”?

Many of us remember the first time we were called “ma’am” instead of “miss,” when we had to start playing in the “senior league” (at age 35 or 40!), or got that first AARP membership brochure in the mail.

Researchers at the Pew Research Center were curious whether they could measure this question by asking people for their opinion about the definition of being old. So they put the question to nearly 3,000 adults, ranging in age from 18 to well over 65. It turns out like many other questions in life, the answer depends on who you ask.

If you take all of the answers together and create a single overall response, old age begins at 68.

But the answer depends a lot on how old you are when you answer. People under 30 say old age begin at 60. And half of them think old age actually begins before people hit their 60th birthday.

But as people age, it’s no surprise that the number starts rising and the longer they think it takes for a person to reach old age:

  • Adults between the ages of 30 and 49 think old age begins at 69.
  • People who are currently 50 to 64 believe old age starts at 72.
  • People in the survey who are 65 and older say old age begins at 74.

It also makes a difference whether you are a man or woman. Women say old age begins at age 70, according to the Pew study. Men, on average, say that old age begins at 66. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the average lifespan for a woman in the United States is seven years longer than the lifespan for a man.

But all of the answers are out the window when the question is focused on the person being asked. The study shows only one thing about age is certain: a person’s judgments about age don’t apply to themselves!

When people in the survey over 65 were asked whether they felt “old” according to the definition in the survey, only 21 percent agreed and said they felt and considered themselves old at their age.

Nearly every single person in the survey agreed that people 75 and up could be considered old. But when the Pew Researchers asked them, two-thirds of the people in the survey 75 and older said “No, I don’t feel old at all!”

Maybe this is proof, as the old saying goes, that you’re as young as you feel. If 50 is the new 40 (or 30), is 75 the new 50? Although it won’t be for a long time, I can’t wait to find out.

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

NEXT WEEK: Will California Kill Off Affordable Home Care?

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