Robert F. Jakubowicz: Don't let calendar age you


PITTSFIELD —You are as old as you feel physically and mentally and not just because the 2019 calendar year is now adding another year to your chronological age.

According to historians, early civilizations used the periods of time between recurring natural and astronomical events, such as the flooding of the Nile and the first new moon after the day with equal daylight and night, to measure intervals of time. Eventually, over a period of time, such measures of time morphed into the creation of calendars. The Romans produced a calendar of 10 months with 304 days that was intended to follow the time of one orbit (approximately 365 days) by the earth around the sun. But this did not work, so they added twomore months. Also their God Janus who was their namesake for the first month was said to have two faces, one to look back on what happened in the past year while the other looked forward for what might happen in the new calendar year.

Additionally people around the world began to celebrate the first day of these years with a mix of religious piety and later by partying. Today we continue these celebrations by such events as wishing others a Happy New Year, dropping a big ball at Time Square in New York and toasting the arrival of the new year with drinks while singing "Auld Lang Syne" at the stroke of midnight on the last day of the prior calendar year.

Based on this capsulized story of calendars and years being created to measure time, it is obvious to me that it was not done primarily to measure the aging process of humans. One does not have to be an expert on aging to understand that people age in different ways. By simple observation, one can see that some people look and act much younger than their chronological age, while others look and act much older than their chronological age.


The main reason for this difference is twofold. People tend to feel, look and act much younger than their chronological ages because of genes, exercise, diet, mental activity, continued socializing and the like. Others tend to feel, look and act much older that these ages because of disease, sickness, stress, physical inactivity, mental inactivity and the like. Of course, there is a limit to how long humans can engage in certain activities. mainly physical, and live, but I am referring to the periods of time leading to those limits.

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So why do we continue to use a chronological age based on calendar years to measure the human aging process? The reason in my opinion is that it caught on as a simple method to deal with the aging process.

Arbitrary ages have come to be selected for certain purposes. The government and private sectors have arbitrarily selected ages at which people can retire (mandatory and otherwise), and receive benefits (Social Security, Medicare, etc.). Mandatory retirement can and does become a factor in people for how they feel and act in ways that belie their chronological age. I have observed people deteriorating physically and mentally because of such forced inactivity.

I suspect some doctors of cutting back on certain tests and treatments for patients based on chronological age because of the presumed short life expectancy of the patient. Certain businesses cater to such people by selling them products for profit. Organizations are formed for people based on their chronological age which separates them as a group from the general younger population.

Although such segregation and classification does provide some benefit and good for aging people the use of arbitrary chronological ages in setting them apart from calendar young age groups makes them feel that they have come near their end times and makes them feel old beyond their time. In my opinion, it is important that all aging persons not be considered as being participants in the same in the aging process. In terms of activities, employment, socializing and the like, consideration should be given to how they feel and act individually.

This column is based on one I wrote several years ago. In it, I quoted Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of psychology at UMass-Amherst, who said that; "If you want to know your true age, don't look at the calendar." Instead, she noted, that how one feels, or the age one feels to be, is more important than one's calendar age for a person's health, happiness, longevity and cognition. Others who have studied this matter of aging have concluded that the old adage, "You are only as old as you feel," is "probably true.

Robert "Frank" Jakubowicz is a regular Eagle contributor


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