Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hey, how old are you?

For the most part, I go about the world as if I am an eighty-year old, grumbling about everybody, and complaining that the world has gone to dogs.  Field Marshal Grouch I am!

But then, I also behave like a eight-year old when I crack awful puns--and laugh at my jokes even before anybody else has had the time to think about how awful the jokes are.

So, what is my real age then, right?
How old we feel—our subjective age—can influence how we age. Where age is concerned, the pages torn off a calendar do not tell the whole story.
First, the author of the essay, from where I excerpted those two sentences, has a name that is easily recognizable as a distinctly Tamil name--for those of us from that part of the old country.  Anil Ananthaswamy.  So, of course, I had to check that first:
He studied electronics and electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, and the University of Washington, Seattle, and trained as a journalist at the University of California, Santa Cruz
He is now a journalist/science writer, operating from Bangalore and Berkeley!  I suppose there are quite a few of us who mistakenly wandered into engineering programs!

So, back to the aging issue. "Where age is concerned, the pages torn off a calendar do not tell the whole story."
People’s perception of their own age can differ markedly from person to person. People between the ages of 40 and 80, for example, tend to think they are younger. People who are 60 may say that they feel like they are 50 or 55, or sometimes even 45. Rarely will they say they feel older. However, people in their 20s often perceive their age to be the same as their chronological age, and may say they feel somewhat older.
Ananthaswamy's essay has plenty of science--from epigenetics to mindful meditation to chromosomes, all of which are way, way beyond my technical abilities.  But, the overall story-line is easy to understand for any critical thinking person: "our chronological age really is just a number."
“If people think that because they are getting older they cannot do things, or cut their social ties, or incorporate this negative view which limits their life, that can be really detrimental,” says Terracciano. “Fighting those negative attitudes, challenging yourself, keeping an open mind, being engaged socially, can absolutely have a positive impact.”
Yesterday, I was talking with a grandfather and his sixteen-year old granddaughter.  I told the girl that at 87, my father is older than her grandfather.  The grandfather said that his father died when he was 90 years old--he died as a result of a fall from the horse that he was riding.  "At 90, he was still riding a horse" he exclaimed.

The grandfather looked at me and said that I might live until a 110.  "That is such a long time," the granddaughter commented.  "What will you do for all those years?"

I laughed; I did not tell them about my hopes ;)


Ramesh said...

Oh yes. Completely agree. I often felt older while I was younger.

I compliment you on your thinking capability. The article you have featured is much more about the medical process of ageing. That you connected it to a very real mental process of how old we feel simply shows how much your curiosity is. Bravo.

I would have loved to be in the experiment where they lived and talked about 1959. I have often felt that it would be great to experience for a few days life in the 1200s or even in the ancient Egyptian times. Just for sheer experience. Not to feel 2000 years younger !

Sriram Khé said...

Wait ... in that study,the back to 1959 was to take the participants back to the time when they were younger. They had lived through those years in younger and healthier bodies. But, back to 1200s or ancient Egyptian times is different--our minds and bodies have no experience of back then. Interesting it will be, yes, but very different purposes.
As I was reading about that experiment, I wondered what effects school reunions then have. After all, when we get together for a reunion, all we do is talk about life back then. Maybe going to reunions is healthy then?

Ah yes, my curiosity ... more on that in my next post too ;)

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