How old do you feel?

Unlike many people, I’ve never minded getting older.
I credit two things from my childhood for this mindset.
First, I had a wonderful grandmother. And from early on, my goal was to be just like her some day.
It seemed to me that she had a perfect life!
But mostly, it was because I began Grade 1 three weeks after my fourth birthday. As a result, I always felt “too young.”
There were several reasons why I happened to go to school so early. First, Uncle Bill’s long-time girlfriend was the teacher and she thought I was ready.
Later, when she reversed herself, my mother was too proud to take me out of school.
The other reason was that the country school was just next door, so I already spent every recess and lunch playing with the other “kids.”
Of course, I was excited to go to school. But, unfortunately, I had less play time because I had to take my nap during lunch hour.
No wonder I felt too young!
That early experience has shaped my whole life.
I was too young to date in high school and too young to carry authority when I began teaching. So when I finally arrived at age 25, I was delighted to reach the quarter-century mark.
When I went back to graduate school at age 50, it was refreshing to be older than all my school friends.
A recent Purdue University study on aging reveals that it really matters how old you feel. Now, I realize how fortunate I am to feel young.
In this long-term study, Markus Schafer and Tetyana Shippee compared people’s chronological age and subjective age to determine which has a greater influence on cognitive abilities during older adulthood.
The researchers asked the subjects how old they actually felt right now and how they expected their minds would work as they got older.
Study participants responded to statements such as this: “As I get older, my mental sharpness is bound to get worse.”
A majority of the subjects said they felt 12 years younger than they actually were. And the researchers found a marked difference between these subjects and their more pessimistic peers.
“We found that these people who felt young for their age were more likely to have greater confidence about their cognitive abilities a decade later,” the researchers reported.
Obviously chronological age is important, but the age you feel has a stronger impact on how you actually function as you get older.
“If you feel old beyond your own chronological years, you are probably going to experience a lot of the downsides that we associate with aging,” the researchers said.
“But if you are older and maintain a sense of being younger, then that gives you an edge in maintaining a lot of the abilities you prize.”
It may just be self-fulfilling prophecy. You expect a decline in brain power and it happens. But if you expect to go on growing as you age, that also happens.
Whatever the reason, no one can afford to “think old.”
So, whatever your age now, remember that your chronological age is only a number. Begin thinking younger today–exercise your body and your brain.
And make a conscious decision to enjoy every day of life!
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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