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Report: The Truth About Old Age


Who better to ask about the experience of aging than old people themselves?

And that’s what British researchers did for the second wave of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (2004). They asked people aged 50 and older to describe their experiences and perceptions of old age. Here’s what the researchers learned:

The experience of aging

The majority of participants (55 per cent) described aging as a positive experience. Only eight per cent experienced it negatively. Britons aged 55 to 59 and those over 80, were the most negative.
Wealthier participants were more likely than poorer ones to report positive feelings of aging.
Likewise, participants in good health viewed aging more positively than those in poor health.
Only one-in-three Britons agreed with the statement "old age is a time of loneliness".
Seventy-five per cent of participants saw retirement as a time for leisure.
Almost two-thirds of participants reported old people are not respected in society. More than two-thirds worry their health will worsen, as they age.

When does old age begin?

Britons aged 50 to 54 say old age starts at 68 while those over 80 say it starts at 75.
Women think old age begins later than men.
High-income people are also more likely to say old age starts later.
Likewise, healthier participants think old age starts later. The healthiest men and women report old age starts at 71 and 73 respectively; those in poor health put the numbers at 68 and 71.

To be forever young

Most participants do not think of themselves as old. And the vast majority feels younger than their actual age.
Across all age groups, more women than men feel younger. For example, among Britons 60 to 74, six per cent more women than men feel younger than their actual age.
Interestingly, those who think of themselves as younger have better health than those who think of themselves as older. Researchers are still trying to figure out why.
Most participants want to be younger. When asked, "How old would you like to be?" Men said 41, women 44. Among those aged 75 and older, 89 per cent of men, and 93 per cent of women want to be younger.