Old Age Is Getting Younger Every Year

Good news for aging baby boomers.

Posted Jul 08, 2019

As the earliest wave of baby boomers approach 75,  they're smarter, fitter and happier than their parents were at the same age, according to a new study that compared over 700 Berliners with their "statistical twins" who were studied two decades ago—people of both genders who were similar in age and education

On average, today's 75-year-olds are cognitively much fitter than 75-year-olds of 20 years ago—by the study's criteria, they are 19.61 years "younger" than the base cohort studied in the mid-nineties. They also reported higher levels of well-being, more positive affect and fewer negative affects. 

This data jibes with the experience of many people who marvel at their newly retired parents' energy, enthusiasm, busy social lives, and wide-ranging interests, especially compared with their subjective memories of their grandparents. "My grandmother was old when I was a child; my parents, in their early 70s, are much younger,"  said one woman. 

The reflections of another man, now in his  mid-60s, echoed another conclusion cited in this and other studies on aging: "I went on a tour of the Pyramids with my parents when they were 80 and I was 50," he said. "Their energy astounded everyone—except the people their age who were still in good health. They used to tease us about how tired we were at the end of the day while they were still raring to go.  But a couple of years later they couldn't travel anymore.  They didn't get sick, they just got old—little by little, maybe, but it seemed like all at once." As the research concludes, the positive historical trends the study hallmarked are attenuated at the end of life; during its final stages, the good years give way to a rapid and marked drop in both cognition and well-being.

What this means is good news for baby boomers: "Middle old age" is lasting longer and longer than it used to,. So carpe diem while you still can. That doesn't mean we're not doing everything we can to postpone our inevitable decline; anti-aging methods and means still call us with their siren songs, and probably always will. Is 75 the new 50? Only time, which has the last word, will tell.

References

Gerstorf et al, 2015:, Psychology and Aging