Massage therapists who work with senior clients know that as the baby boomer generation advances, the face of old age is changing. The “active senior” trend got a boost from new research that shows older people tend to feel about 13 years younger than their chronological age.

That is one of the findings of a study forthcoming in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Science. The researchers analyzed the responses of 516 men and women age 70 and older who participated in the Berlin Aging Study, tracking how their perceptions about age and their satisfaction with aging changed over a six-year period.

“People generally felt quite a bit younger than they actually were, and they also showed relatively high levels of satisfaction with aging over the time period studied,” said Jacqui Smith, a psychologist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Smith conducted the study with colleagues Anna Kleinspehn-Ammerlahn and Dana Kotter-Gruehn at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

“We examined individual changes over time, and expected the gap to increase. But we were surprised to find that it was maintained, on average. Perhaps feeling about 13 years younger is an optimal illusion in old age,” Smith said.

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