Recently, I was going through the family photo album with my children.
“Who was that young man with the flared jeans and long hair” they asked? I remember the style of that era very well, and yes that was me alright – it seemed like not so long ago, maybe a couple of years at most?! We carry on looking through the photo album and come across another person I could not quite fathom out who, but it was familiar..
When I look at the old man in the photos, with receding hair and plain looking clothes, I stop myself taking a second and third look. That can’t be me. I am still the young man from the photo of the 70’s or at least that is who I see myself as in my own mind.
I feel like I am still in my late teens and cannot for the life of me understand why my inner voice has remained at that age. Actually I am 60 years of age.
We tend to think of aging as a fixed process, where our bodies and minds change steadily. However, the passing years affect everyone differently. How old we feel, which is called our subjective age, also varies between people — with many feeling older or younger than their actual age.
Why do some people feel younger or older than their real age? Some possibilities include depressive states, personality differences or physical health. However, no-one had investigated brain aging processes as a possible reason for differences in subjective age.
People frequently experience some cognitive impairment as they age. In fact, the brain shows a variety of age-related changes that are reflective of declining neural health, including reductions in gray matter volumes. Recently developed techniques can help researchers to identify brain features associated with aging, to provide an estimated brain age.
Some people who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger brain, – Importantly, this difference remains robust even when other possible factors, including personality, subjective health, depressive symptoms, or cognitive functions, are accounted for.”
The theory is that those who feel older may be able to sense the aging process in their brain, as their loss of gray matter may make cognitive tasks more challenging.
No-one knows for sure if these brain characteristics are directly responsible for subjective age and further research is required on this.
One intriguing possibility is that those who feel younger are more likely to lead a more physically and mentally active life, which could cause improvements in brain health. However, for those who feel older, the opposite could be true.
If somebody feels older than their age, it could be sign for them to evaluate their lifestyle, habits and activities that could contribute to brain aging and take measures to better care for their brain health.
Young Einstein and the older Einstein.
What do you think? Do you feel like you are younger in your mind than your chronological age or the opposite of feeling older than your years lived on the planet?