Vol 2 No 1 (2019): International Journal of Aging Research
Research Articles

The mask we wear: Chronological age versus subjective ‘age inside’

L. F. Carver M.A., PhD.
Post Doctoral Fellow, SSHRC funded ACTproject & Faculty of Arts and Science, Adjunct Assistant Professor, SKHS, Queen’s University Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6
Keywords
  • lifecourse, subjective age, ‘age inside’, ‘age outside’, illness, self-reported health, gender
How to Cite
L. F. Carver M.A., PhD. (2019). The mask we wear: Chronological age versus subjective ‘age inside’. International Journal of Aging Research, 2(1), 29. https://doi.org/10.28933/ijoar-2019-02-2606

Abstract

Objectives: Age inside is a type of self-reported, subjective age, that is unconstrained by years lived or physical health.  The goal of this study was to explore: 1. How age inside is described and whether there is a relationship between age inside and chronological age; 2. Whether gender, income adequacy and education level associated with age inside or age inside perception; 3. Whether the associated variables be used to predict age inside and age inside perception as the dependent variables, in separate regression models.
Method: Using a cross-sectional design, the data was collected via an online or in person questionnaire.  Recruitment was done through doctor’s offices and seniors centres, as well as word-of-mouth utilizing a non-probability, purposive, sampling method along with snowball sampling.
Results: Participants were 66 adults aged 65–90 years, (mage = 73 years, SD = 6.5) all of whom reported at least one illness.  The majority of participants identified an age inside of 20 to 40 years less than their chronological age (mAI = 51 years, SD = 14.9). Gender (not sex) and self-reported health were associated with age inside.
Conclusion: Age inside may explain mid and later life purchases such as sailboats, and sports cars, new hobbies and new loves.  With a youthful age inside, the older adult may be more interested in risk taking and radical changes than fitting into stereotypical elder roles and as such, may cause confusion and frustration for loved ones and health practitioners. Age inside has clinical value and could help explain some older adults’ lack of compliance with medical directives due to the attitude ‘they are for old people, I’m not old’.  By acknowledging that the chronological age may not be reflective of the age of the person inside, policy makers and/or service providers might take a step back from programs for ‘seniors’ and create instead, programs that appeal to the young inside.

References

1. Barak, B. 2009. Age identity: A cross-cultural global approach. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 33, 2–11.
2. Barrett, A.E. 2005. Gendered experiences in midlife: implications for age identity. Journal of Aging Studies, 19, 2, 161-83.
3. Barrett, A.E. and Montepare, J.M. 2015. “it’s about time”: Applying life span and life course perspectives to the study of subjective age. Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics, 35, 55-77.
4. Bergland, A., Nicolaisen, M. and Thorsen, K. 2014. Predictors of subjective age in people aged 40-79 years: a five-year follow-up study. The impact of mastery, mental and physical health. Aging & Mental Health, 18, 5, 653-61
5. Brothers, A., Miche, M., Wahl, H-W. and Diehl, M. 2017. Examination of associations among three distinct subjective aging constructs and their relevance for predicting developmental correlates. The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 72, 4, 547-60.
6. Choi, N. G. and DiNitto, D.M. 2014. Felt age and cognitive-affective depressive symptoms in late life. Aging & Mental Health, 18, 7, 833–837. http://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2014.886669
7. Elder G.H., and George L.K. 2016. Age, Cohorts, and the Life Course. In: Shanahan M., Mortimer J., Kirkpatrick Johnson M. (eds) Handbook of the Life Course. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
8. Featherstone, M., Hepworth, M. and B.S. Turner. 1991. The Body: Social Process and Cultural Theory. London: Sage.
9. Feldman, R. 2015. Discovering the Lifespan. Boston: Pearson
10. Furstenberg, A-L. 2002. Trajectories of aging: imagined pathways in later life. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 55, 1–24.
11. Kastenbaum, R., Derbin, V, Sabatini, P. and Artt, S. 1972. The ages of me: Toward personal and interpersonal definitions of functional aging. Aging and Human Development, 3, 197-211.
12. Kaufman, G. and Elders, G.H. 2003. Grandparenting and age identity. Journal of Aging Studies, 17, 3, 269–282.
13. Kleinspehn-Ammerlahn, A., Kotter-Grühn, D. and Smith, J. 2008. Self-Perceptions of Aging: Do Subjective Age and Satisfaction With Aging Change During Old Age?, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 63, 6, 377–385.
14. Kornadt, A.E., Hess, T.M., Voss, P. and Rothermund, K. 2016. Subjective age across the life span: A differentiate longitudinal approach. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 00, 1-11.
15. Kotter-Gruhn, D., Kornadt, A.E. and Stephan, Y. 2016. Looking beyond chronological age: Current knowledge and future directions in the study of subjective age. Gerontology, 62, 86-93.
16. Linn, M. W. and Hunter, K. 1979. Perception of age in the elderly. Journal of Gerontology, 34, 46–52.
17. Mann, C. J. (2012). Observational research methods—Cohort studies, cross sectional studies, and case–control studies. African Journal of Emergency Medicine, 2(1), 38-46.
18. Maxwell, J. (1997). Designing a qualitative study. In L. Bickman & D. J. Rog (Eds.) Handbook of applied social research methods (pp. 69-100). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
19. Mead, G.H. 1962. Mind Self and Society. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
20. McEniry, Mary. 2015. Research on Early Life and Aging Trends and Effects (RELATE): A Cross-National Study. ICPSR34241-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2015-05-07. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR34241.v2
21. Montepare, J.M. 2009. Subjective age: Toward a guiding lifespan framework. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 33, 1, 42-46.
22. Montepare, J.M. and Lachman, M.E. 1989. “You’re only as old as you feel”: self-perception of age, fears of aging, and life satisfaction from adolescence to old age. Psychology and Aging, 4, 1, 73-8.
23. Palys, T. (2008). Purposive sampling. In L.M. Given (Ed.) The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods. (Vol.2). Sage: Los Angeles, pp. 697-8.
24. Sanderson, J.P. and Burnay, N. 2017. Life courses and ends of career: Towards de-standardization? An analysis of the Belgian Case. Population Ageing 10, 109–124
25. Settersten, Jr, Richard A, and Gunhild O. Hagestad. 2015. Subjective aging and new complexities of the life course. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics 35 (1): 29-53.
26. Soper, D.S. 2014. A-priori Sample Size Calculator for Multiple Regression [Software]. Available from http://www.danielsoper.com/statcalc
27. Steitz, J.A. and McClary, A.M. 1988. Subjective age, age identity, and middle-age adults. ’ Experimental Aging Research, 14, 2-3, 83-8.
28. Teuscher, U. 2009. Subjective age bias: A motivational and information processing approach. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 33, 1, 22-31.
29. Uotinen, V., Rantanen, T., Suutama, T. and Ruoppila, I. 2006. Change in subjective age among older people over an eight-year follow-up: ‘Getting older and feeling younger?’ Experimental Aging Research, 32, 381-93.
30. Weiss D. and Lang F.R. 2012. ‘They’ are old but ‘I’ feel younger: age-group dissociation as a self protective strategy in old age. Psychology of Aging 27,153–63.
31. Westerhof, G. J., Barrett, A. E., and Steverink, N. 2003. Forever young? A comparison of age identities in the United States and Germany. Research on Aging, 25, 366–383.