But first, this: Stanford University researchers may have found a way to reduce inflammation in the myeloid cells that contribute to cognitive decline.
The wonder of dissociative thinking
Yes, you can turn back the hands of time in your mind. Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash
Older people are sucking up all the oxygen these days. And I don’t mean from tanks. They are all over the news in a way that’s surprising, really, considering how we always refer to the world as youth oriented. There’s the new Prez, Joe Biden, 78 years old and dominating headlines every time he whispers an empathetic word, or yells at a reporter to “give me a break, man.” And ageless Mitch McConnell, who expresses his insatiable need to control in emotionless power tones, endlessly. And 80-year old Dionne Warwick, the chanteuse who now dominates Twitter with her hilarious critiques of younger singers (@dionewarrick).* And many more, from Howard Stern to the recently departed Larry King. A lot of people are asserting themselves youthfully long after they are young.
We age physically from our 20s until the moment we die (who knows what happens after that). However, in peculiar ways, we also grow younger as we grow older. That’s partly because we want to live longer. A Michigan State University study of half a million humans found that as they grow older, people consistently up the age at which they think they will die. I’ve struggled with this myself. In my youth, a flash of wisdom, insight, or perhaps just drug induced delusion, entered my brain like a shout from the universe: “You will live to age 92.” I was certain of it. Then at about age 45, I found myself thinking that 96 might be closer to the truth. Now, at 62, I’m like, “I don’t want to think about it.”
I prefer to focus on how I feel at the moment, and I’m not alone. Much research over the years has shown that adults tend to say they feel younger than their age -- sometimes as much as 20 percent younger for those in their 60s and up. For me, that’s accurate. I feel like I’m 50, twelve years younger than I actually am.
The percentage is smaller in younger people. For instance, 50 year olds tend to feel just 10 percent younger than their actual age. People generally also think they actually look younger than they “should” at their age. (My mirror prevents me from suffering this foolishness.) Same thing applies to their “more youthful” interests -- a 62 year old on Tik Tok, maybe? (Don’t look at me). And their activities -- learning to surf post divorce at age 55? (Don’t look at me — especially when I’m trying to surf).
Some experts say the it’s all an attempt to escape being part of a stigmatized group. To this I say, “Duh!”
The shrinks call this phenomena age-group dissociation (AD). The acronym is appropriate, because this dissociation is kind of like doing an ad for yourself that makes you seem “better” (younger) than you really are. But the emphasis on youth can also make people avoid others their own age (I’m guilty of this, for sure), and perhaps not live the full lives they could be living.
It’s all a game. All in the mind. People 18-29 think old age starts at 60 (I protest!). Middle aged people say it starts at 72 (could be right). Those 65 and older say old age starts at 74 (finally coming to their senses).
There’s very good news in all of this self-deception, dissociation, whatever: perceiving yourself as middle aged even as you enter your 60s and 70s is actually linked to less hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, immobility and better recovery time. So dream on, olds. Yes, you do look good. You feel young. You act it too.
*An aside: Dionne Warwick married William Elliot, an actor and drummer, in 1966. She divorced him in May, 1967. Then she remarried him in August 1967. “It was a case of can’t do with, can’t do without, so I married him again,” she said. They divorced again in 1975.
92 or 94? Or maybe 96?
Three things to know
America is obligated to witness and respond to this
Native American tribal elders are dying due to COVID-19. Much of their wisdom might die with them.
Swimming pool colors relax me
Aging gracefully through the eyes of painter David Hockney, online from The Morgan Museum.
A filter for your face
Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood flawless filter lets you fake it.
Breaks aren’t made -- you take them. Kurtis Blow is now 61 years old.
This song makes me feel good every time I hear it.
I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org
nice newsletter this week! You can interview me!