Study: Adults Today Believe Old Age Starts Later Than Previous Generations

As life expectancy rises, perceptions of when old age begins are shifting, with later ages now seen as the start of old age. This has implications for retirement, healthcare, and societal attitudes towards aging.

Wojciech Zylm
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Study: Adults Today Believe Old Age Starts Later Than Previous Generations

Study: Adults Today Believe Old Age Starts Later Than Previous Generations

A recent study published in the journal Psychology and Aging has found that middle-aged and older adults now perceive the onset of old age to occur later in life compared to previous generations. The study, which analyzed data from the German Ageing Survey spanning 25 years and involving 14,056 participants, revealed that individuals born later consistently viewed old age as beginning at a later age.

The researchers found that for every 4-5 years that passed, participants reported that old age started a year later compared to their last assessment. Participants born earlier, between 1911 and 1935, thought old age started earlier than those born after 1935. For example, participants born in 1956 said old age begins at age 74, on average, when they were 65, compared to participants born in 1911 who said old age begins at age 71 when they were 65.

Why this matters: The study sheds light on shifting perceptions of aging in society. As life expectancy increases and people live healthier lives into older age, the definition of when old age begins is evolving. This has implications for retirement planning, healthcare policies, and societal attitudes towards older adults.

The study also found that women, on average, said that old age started two years later than men, and this gender difference had increased over time. Additionally, people who reported being more lonely, in worse health, and feeling older said old age began earlier on average than those who were less lonely, in better health, and felt younger.

Factors such as increased life expectancy and improvements in health are likely contributing to these shifting perceptions of when old age begins. However, the study authors noted that the rate at which old age is being redefined has slowed in recent decades.

Lead researcher Dr. Svenja Spuling commented, "Our findings suggest that as people live longer and healthier lives, the perception of when old age begins is shifting. However, individual factors like health status and feelings of loneliness still influence how people view aging." The study provides valuable insights into how perceptions of aging change over time as people get older and highlights the need for society to adapt to an aging population.

Key Takeaways

  • Perception of old age onset has shifted later over 25 years
  • Each 4-5 years, old age seen as starting 1 year later
  • Women view old age as starting 2 years later than men
  • Loneliness, poor health linked to earlier perceived old age
  • Aging perceptions evolve with increased life expectancy and health