In spite of the fact that our bodies steadily age, our perception of ourselves doesn’t keep pace. Research published in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Science found
that people in their 70s felt an average of 13 years younger than their
chronological age. When these 516 people were asked to look in a
mirror, the illusion was only slightly diminished. They reported
appearing an average of 10 years younger than their calendar age.
The mirror test was somewhat harder on
women. The females saw themselves as four years older than the same
aged males. Ralph Waldo Emerson had something comforting to say to
those who saw gray hair and wrinkles in the mirror: “As we age…the
beauty steals inward.”
In another study, the same group of
gerontology researchers found that older people who feel young are less
likely to die than those who do not, given the same level of
chronological age and equivalent physical health. The explanation
probably lies in the fact that those who are young at heart continue to
be active, vigorous and busy living.
In some ways it is true that we are only
as old as we feel. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “To be 70 years young is
sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be 40 years old.”
For those disgruntled about aging and
all that accompanies it, Maurice Chevalier reminds us, “Old age is not
so bad when you consider the alternatives.” Now at age 72, I can
appreciate the humor as well as the wisdom in that statement.
Frank Lloyd Wright, designer of some of the world’s most
beautiful buildings, was able to maintain an upbeat outlook into old
age: “The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.” And, I might add, the more precious.