Aging : When do you get old?
Biology and psychology
Aging and “getting old” are not synonymous terms. The traditional
designation of old (65 years old) has never actually been based on
human biology. Some are active and vigorous at 65, and others seem old
at the age of 42. The age of 65 being designated as old actually
began in Germany, which was the first country to formally establish a
You can actually answer the question as to when does an individual get
old in several ways. Chronological aging is based on the passage of
time. However, this type of aging also has limited significance in
terms of health. The likelihood of developing health
more probable as people age, so there is some predictive ability with
using chronological age for some legal and financial purposes. Also,
chronological aging is also used to determine eligibility for some
programs for the elderly.
Biological aging refers to the changes in the body that commonly occur
as an individual grows older. Vision and hearing usually get worse as
people age, for example. Because these changes affect some people
more than others and at an earlier age, some people are biologically
old at 40 and others are biological young at 60.
On the other hand, psychological aging is more associated with how a
person acts and feels. For example, an 80-year-old with an active
lifestyle, actively engaged in social and physical activities may be
considered psychologically young, sometimes being referred to as
“being young at heart."
Normal and abnormal
People are frequently concerned about whether the changes that occur
as they get older are part of the "normal aging process." Although
there is great divergence in how people age, there are some changes
that occur with almost everyone and would be considered “normal”. Some
experts have stated that a more accurate description of the aging
process would be to consider the more common changes to be "usual".
Usual aging refers to the changes common to many or most individuals,
although it does not necessarily mean that the changes are unavoidable
At one time, usual aging referred to conditions which were considered
to be unavoidable such as changes in muscle weakness, slow movement,
loss of balance and memory loss. However, modern medical science is
now beginning to consider many of these changes to be caused or
exacerbated by specific lifestyle choices. Many of these changes can
be prevented, treated and/or reversed according to many experts. So,
the best question to ask yourself may be whether these changes can be
avoided rather whether they are "normal". This perspective may lead to
a more healthy view of aging.
Healthy aging refers to the postponement or reduction in some of the
undesired effects of the aging process. The usual goals of healthy
aging include good physical and mental health, avoiding disorders when
possible and remaining active and independent. Most people find it
more difficult to maintain good health as they age. However, there
are certain healthy habits that have been shown to reduce the risk of
developing many of the common disorders related to the aging process.
These habits included exercising regularly, following a nutritious
diet, and staying mentally active. You should develop these habits as
early as possible, as they are incredibly important to your ability to
age in a healthy manner. It is never too late to begin however, and
developing a perspective of the need for healthy aging allows some
control over what happens to you as you age.
Some information from The Merck Manual of Healthy Aging
Additional information and web page by
Paul Susic MA Licensed
Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate (Health and Geriatric Psychology)