Markus H. Schafer and co-author Tetyana P. Shippee, a Purdue graduate who is a research associate at Purdue's Center on Aging and the Life Course, compared people's chronological age and their subjective age to determine which one has a greater influence on cognitive abilities during older adulthood. Nearly 500 people ages 55 to 74 were surveyed about aging in 1995 and 2005 as part of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the U.S.
What they found was that midlife people who felt "young" for their age were more likely to have greater confidence about their abilities a decade later. It seems that, while the chronological age was important, the subjective age had a stronger effect.
I believe that how old you are matters, but beyond that it's your own personal interpretation of your "age" that has far-reaching implications for the process of how and when you actually “begin aging.” For example; if you feel old beyond your own chronological age, chances are greater that you are probably going to experience a lot of the downsides that we associate with aging than if you perceived yourself as more youthful.
So, what comes first? Does a person's wellness and happiness affect their idea of aging and activities or does a person's ability to remain active contribute to their sense of wellness?
For now, you can bet on the fact that there is a tremendous emphasis on being youthful in our society. Depending on the severity, this can have a negative effect for people of all ages. People want to feel younger, and so when they do inevitably age, there seems to be a loss of confidence in their cognitive and physical capabilities.
However, if one really is "as old as you feel," there may be benefits of trying to maintain a sense of youthfulness by remaining physically active, keeping up with new trends, and taking classes or learning new skills that feel invigorating. I know of plenty "fifty somethings" and over that are learning new technologies as a way to improve their cognitive abilities.
Be careful to understand that I am not talking about the physical attractiveness of youth. The type of youthfulness I'm writing of resides in all of us. It is the magic that keeps us ever grateful for life and wondrous of what it has yet to bring us. It is the bi product of hope and requires that we move in just one direction - forward.
Keep moving toward a better you!