People now think old age now starts at 75: Study

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  • A recently published study from the American Psychological Assocation shows that older adults think old age begins later in life than they did in the past.  

  • Now, middle-aged and older adults believe old age begins at 75.  

  • Earlier generations were more likely to say they believed old age began at 71, according to the study.  

Perceptions on aging are changing with older adults now considering 75 to be the beginning of old age, according to a new study from the American Psychological Association.  

“Life expectancy has increased, which might contribute to a later perceived onset of old age,” said Markus Wettstein, a professor at Humboldt University in Berlin and the study’s main author. “Also, some aspects of health have improved over time, so that people of a certain age who were regarded as old in the past may no longer be considered old nowadays.” 

Wettstein along with researchers at Stanford University, the University of Luxembourg and Greifswald University Hospital looked at data from over 14,000 people collected via the German Ageing Survey to determine how ideas about aging are changing.  

Researchers found that age, gender and health status all played a role in a person’s perception of old age.  

They found that as people age, their ideas of when old age started changed. At age 64, average participant in the German survey said old age started at about age 74 and at age 74 the average survey respondent said old age started at closer to 77, according to the study.  

“On average, the perceived onset of old age increased by about one year for every four to five years of actual aging,” the study reads.  

There were also generational differences of opinion as to when old age starts, according to the study.  

Compared to the German survey’s earliest-born participants, later-born participants said they thought old age began later in life.  

“When participants born in 1911 were 65 years old, they set the beginning of old age at age 71. In contrast, participants born in 1956 said old age begins at age 74, on average, when they were 65,” the study reads.  

On average, women said that old age started two years later than men and that differences of opinion grew more stark over time.  

Researchers also found that people who said they felt lonelier, were in worse health or reported feeling older said old age began earlier than their less lonely, healthier and more youthful feeling counterparts, according to the study.  

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