We are often defined in terms of a magic number. We often ask children their ages. Dating sites are based upon ages. Age is often published immediately after a name in a newspaper obituary and in coverage of criminal charges.
You can legally change your name. You can change your gender. But you can’t change your age. Or, can you? Emile Ratelband, a Dutchman has asked a court in the Netherlands to legally change his age from 69 to 49, saying he wants to avoid age discrimination. Ratelband says his age is unfairly holding him back, but he doesn’t want to lie about it. For example, when he asks for a mortgage, he is denied. If he goes on a dating site, he doesn’t get responses. “With this freedom of choice, choice of name, free-ness of gender, I want to have my own age. I want to control myself,” he said. Having his age legally changed would offer him inspiration and hope, he said. He would give up his monthly pension if his request is granted. A court is expected to issue a ruling in about four weeks.
Age is not a good indication of who we are and it should not define our self-image. There are mature children, and immature adults. There are people who appear 70 who are in fact 50, and vice versa. There are mixed aged couples who are very compatible.
How we age is largely beyond our control but is primarily influenced by genetics. Interestingly, one study found that certain parts of the body age faster than others. For example, breast tissue is some of the oldest tissue in the body. Even healthy breast tissue can be as much as three years older than the rest of a woman’s body.
Chronological age refers to the actual amount of time a person has been alive. It does not change, regardless of their health, exercise and nutrition. Everyone ages at a different rate. Some people age rapidly, while others age more gradually.
Biological age, on the other hand, is also referred to as physiological age and does consider lifestyle, diet, exercise and sleeping habits. Your functional biological age is the age of your body’s systems. This takes into account one’s blood pressure, respiratory capacity, aerobic power and blood glucose levels.
Your psychological age can be broken down into cognitive functioning (your ability to learn and remember) and emotional functioning (your ability to handle and manage your feelings). As we age, we tend to have difficulty with some aspects of memory. Yet, we cope better with emotions as we age.
Social age reflects a continuum on major life markers such as when we graduate from high school and enter the workforce (approximate age 18), start a family (approximately 20s to 30s), or retire (approximately age 65). We make assumptions of people’s age based on these social markers. However, your social age may be much younger or older than the norm. You can become a first time parent in your 40s or 50s. You can retire early at age 25, such as having had a lucrative sports career.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne suggests you ask yourself a simple question: How old do you feel? “Forget what the calendar says, and even forget what your functional ages are. The age you feel may very well be the most important factor determining your health, happiness, and longevity.” Whitbourne consistently found that the people who are the happiest and best adjusted in their middle and later years are the ones who don’t focus on their limitations, worry about their memories, or become preoccupied with whether others view them as old.
How old do you feel?