The mask we wear: Chronological age versus subjective ‘age inside’
- lifecourse, subjective age, ‘age inside’, ‘age outside’, illness, self-reported health, gender
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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.
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