Advances in medical care mean we are living longer than ever before. But does that mean we are younger at heart or simply older for longer? On this year’s International Day of Older Persons we look at why the future for the 60+ generation has never been rosier.
However young we feel, there’s no ignoring the facts. While age is just a number, at 60 it means that your body has been around for 60 years and, as the logic suggests, a 60 year old house is going to need more upkeep and maintenance than a 40 year old one (although one could argue that this also depends on the quality of the build!) Problems at 60 are often life threatening, or at least life changing. Older people access healthcare in greater numbers, experience more chronic illness, diminished capacity and death than their younger counterparts.
33% of over 65s are affected by disabling hearing loss.World Health Organization
Luckily it’s not all doom and gloom. For many, reaching 60 also means the discovery of new found freedoms. A quieter home, the ability to eat whatever and whenever you want, to work late and go out often without worrying about the children. Leisure time is, at long last, leisurely. There are hopefully fewer financial concerns, the pleasure of grandchildren, senior discounts with your children capable, independent grown-ups whose company you can enjoy. With age comes wisdom and experience. There is a better feeling of oneself with fewer insecurities. You stop worrying about the insignificant things in life and have a better understanding and appreciation of your own mortality. Older people are also now travelling more, learning more and keeping busy in ways that their parents and grandparents could not have experienced or imagined.
While an aging body often comes with its own challenges, advances in healthcare have meant that we are not only starting to live longer (there are now more people on Earth older than 65 than younger than five for the first time, according to a 2019 Deutsche Bank analysis of United Nations data) but living with a greater quality of life. Take hearing problems as one example. Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition affecting older adults, however hearing solutions currently on the market mean improved social life and more self-sufficiency. The truth is, medical devices such as hearing implants allow for higher quality of life up to old age.
What is old?
What defines an “old” person? It seems the answer varies depending on your age. If you’re under 30, studies show you’re likely to say old age begins at 60. If you’re in your 40s and 50s, you might say 70. If you are 60 or 70, your definition of “old” might be 74 or above. Ultimately it appears getting older is something that happens to other people! What we view as the lifestyle markers of old age change as we age too. While most 18-29 year olds say forgetting names is a sign of old age, less than 50 percent of those older than 29 consider it a sign of aging. Having grandchildren is also something that younger people see as a characteristic of older people, but older individuals may not.
Feeling younger is good for your health
Emile Ratelband made international headlines when he launched a controversial legal battle to change his official date of birth from March 1949 to March 1969, reflecting the fact that he feels 20 years younger. The legal bid may be a first, but it is actually common to personally feel younger than we are. A 2018 study showed that once people pass the age of 25, they typically rate their subjective age as younger than their actual age. And this discrepancy grows as we get older – for every decade that passes, people tend to feel that they have only gained around five or six years.
Research in this field has also suggested that health-wise this is very good news. People with a younger subjective age tend to suffer less from diabetes, hypertension, depression, cognitive impairment and dementia. One group of researchers also found that these people have a younger looking brain. A study by a team at the University of Grenoble found that those people that think of themselves as 13 years older are 25% more likely to die.
5 tips for feeling 40 at 60
Here are some tips for making this a reality.:
- Don’t feel under pressure to take up a specific sport but remain active. A simple half hour walk with a friend or neighbour will help to maintain social connections and get the blood flowing.
- Enjoy friendships with a broad range of people both younger and older, ensuring you benefit from a wide range of outlooks and experiences. Also, being friends with people older than yourself means that you hopefully become less fearful of what lies ahead.
- Look after yourself physically by going for regular check-ups. People with hearing loss benefit from early identification, so frequent hearing checks are advised.
- Don’t be afraid to make positive life changes, and avoid thinking it’s all too late. Whether that is relationship changes, starting a new career or moving house, it’s never too late to make those all important life changes to make yourself happy.
- Start planning for 60 at 40! Taking steps to improve your health and finances at the earliest stage will help to prepare you for a relaxing and enjoyable life in your 60s and beyond.