How Old Are You in Your Head?

I recently asked my Aunt, who is 67 years old: ”How old are you in your head?”

Without pausing, she replied, “45!”

Many people answer the question, ”How old do you feel?” by referring fairly accurately to how old one feels physically. However, the question, ”How old are you in your head?” is altogether a different one. Often, when asked, a person who is 75 years old will respond by saying a younger age, 62 years old, for example. A 2006 Danish study concluded that, on average, adults over 40 years of age perceive themselves to be about 20 percent younger than their actual age. (The Atlantic, April, 2023). Why do we have this view of our ’subjective age’?

One theory put forward is that a lot of older people consider aging as quite an unwelcome process. Viewed from a different perspective, seeing yourself as younger is a form of optimism suggesting a rosier future with many productive years remaining. Some persons fix on the specific age when they felt they were at a peak in their life, such as when they were first married and/or were engaged in a high moment is their careers. Another explanation suggests a subjective age is at times chosen because of a relationship to an event or person, such as a younger sibling or relative.

Conversely, persons who are younger such as a teenager, who is eager to secure independence and be viewed as a mature individual, want usually to think of themselves as older and not younger.

So, how old are you in YOUR head?