“How old are you?”
For most of us there comes a time when we stop shouting out our age once somebody asks us this question.
Thoughts like “Oh please, don’t remind me of my age” or “I’m not so sure I want to share that information” often come to mind.
That could be because often we simply think of age as a number that counts our years from birth, but I like to think of it a little differently.
How so? … You may ask.
Surely there is only one way to describe age?
Well actually, I disagree.
In fact there are quite a few different types of age.
Some of the most important related to your youth, fitness, health and beauty are chronological, biological, psychological, social and functional age.
Let us have a look at the definitions and then consider once again how old you really are.
Chronological Age …
… is what we use most often to define how old we are – the number of years since our mothers have put us on this planet.
It is measured mathematically and with time passing can only increase.
Chronological age is often used as a benchmark when comparing to other types of age.
But it is extremely rare that somebody is actually as old as their chronological age would indicate.
I’m sure you know of people who are ‘old’ if you look at their date of birth. But they have so much energy, look so fresh and young that they could easily pass for somebody 10, 15, maybe even 20 years younger.
You might also find the opposite. Just think about some of the women entrepreneurs and executives who run their business, manage a home, care for their children and maybe parents. It is quite common that they look and actually feel older than their birthdate would suggest.
As you see, chronological age is not really a great measure to say how old you are.
So what else is out there?
Biological age …
… refers to our bodies and the physical changes that happen to our organs such as the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys.
This is difficult to measure though as the different parts of our body all have different ages.
While almost all our cells continuously divide and renew themselves, they do that at different rates.
While your brain doesn’t tend to renew its cells, your heart renews itself about every 20 years, your bones every 10 years. Your liver is much quicker. It renews itself completely about every 5 months, your lungs and your skin every 2-3 weeks. And the cells in your colon live only for about 4 days and sperm cells for about 3 days.
As you see, it is very difficult to estimate your overall biological age. There are many tests though that look at the functionality and age of the different parts of your body.
Psychological age …
… looks at how well you can adapt mentally and behaviorally to changing situations.
How easy is it for you to learn something new?
How good is your memory?
How interested are you in doing new things and how do you approach them? With enthusiasm or with a lot of hesitation?
How much drive and zest do you have?
And what I see as one of the most important parts of defining your psychological age: How old do you feel? How much potential for further development do you see in whatever you do?
Look for instance at Sir Richard Branson. He loves adventurous activities in his business and in his personal life. It is a fair guess if anyone would ask him how old he felt he was, his answer would be: Young!
Social age …
… reveals where you are positioned along the ‘social clock’ of your life.
It is very much linked to your chronological age and the expectations others have in a given culture when major life events ‘should’ occur.
Just think back to when you were a teenager (or the way you treat your own children). There are certain expectations how a teenager behaves for instance.
In most cultures there is also an expectation that you marry sometime in your 20s or early 30s.
There are expectations that you finish school in your late teens, your studies in your early 20s, that your career peaks in your 40s and that you retire in your 60s.
Depending on the way you act and behave, others will judge you as younger or older.
Why not start a completely new career in your 40s or start a business in your 60s?
Functional age …
… looks in general at how well you can do things on a daily basis.
It is really a combination of your biological, psychological and social age in comparison to your chronological age.
It also includes your fitness level and what you can do, your individual capacities and limitations and the status of your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system.
Apart from your chronological age you can influence any other age.
Mindset, exercise, sleep and proper nutrition are some of the main drivers that keep you biologically, psychologically, socially and functionally young.
How old you are is so much more than just a number. If you really want to know how old you are, don’t look at the calendar.
And when somebody asks you the next time how old you are, have a bit of fun … depending on what you feel your biological, psychological, social or functional age is right at that moment. … What will you reply?
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