What does it mean to be old? And, how old is old? Is there an age that, when crossed, signifies that we have officially entered into that lifestage?
Preliminary qualitative learnings from “Hacking Longevity,” a new landmark study, suggest that there is no single age that reflects old age. In fact, most people who you consider old, don’t feel old at all.
Respondents rejected the idea that old was defined by a specific age, although they recognized that, the older they were, the farther out they perceived “old age.”
- Gen X respondents contended that being old happens around age 75.
- Boomers, many of whom are already in their 70s, peg old age beginning in the early 80s.
- And members of the Silent Generation, who emphatically stated that they feel young, believe that this milestone does not happen until the ripe age of 90.
As a Millennial with his twenties in the rearview mirror and a hairline that is heading that way as well, I’m relieved that Americans of the three oldest generations continue to view themselves as young at heart and never really over the hill.
So what does it mean to be old if there’s no set age threshold? Participants in the focus groups believe getting old has more to do with the signs of aging — including physical and mental decline, loss of independence, inability to do things they once good do, a generally negative attitude, and just plain giving up — than any specific year or even decade of age.
The old adage, “act your age,” has been flipped — instead of age dictating behavior, most of us, it appears, act the way we do regardless of our age. And with that attitude, it’s not surprising that octogenarians who are busy with friends, family, occasionally volunteering and working out, don’t yet see themselves as old. They don’t act old, they don’t feel old, so dammit they’re not old!
What’s the ultimate goal here? To live as long as possible? Not so, according to “Hacking Longevity” research participants. They surmise that we all only really want to live to 100 if our quality of life supports that goal. No one wants to be old for too long. As data from “Hacking Longevity” are released, we’ll dive deep into the generational differences (keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post) when it comes to defining and describing quality of life.
And while we may have similar ideas of how to spend our golden years, regardless of generation, the qualitative findings are uncovering differences in how each generation plans for aging and what they expect from technology, products, brands, and organizations that will help them navigate and embrace this lifestage.
For more information about “Hacking Longevity,” conducted by aging expert Lori Bitter and her team at The Business of Aging, please click here.