• When we’re young, we often view people in their 20s or 30s as “old”; this idea of old, however, changes as we age.
  • A recent study says the older we get, the younger we feel—in other words, our perception of old age changes as we get older.
  • Researchers reached this conclusion after studying half a million Americans; nearly 30,000 participants reported middle age starting around 30 years old.
  • Participants also reported an ideal age to live to: kids and young adults hoped to live into their 90s, while 30 and 40-year-olds hoped to live to age 88.
  • This study shows that what we consider to be old changes as we grow old ourselves; researchers say we realize that old age does not have to be a negative experience and so we are more open to it.

My brother is four years older than me. He was a senior when I was a freshman in high school, and at the time, I felt significantly younger than him and his friends. They were soon-to-be adults about to embark on college and the world beyond. I, on the other hand, felt stuck with my boring 15-year-old life.

I often daydreamed about what life would be like as an 18-year-old. At 18, I’d have everything figured out: a clear career path, a newfound independence. And by 23, I’d be financially stable, married, and maybe even have a kid. Boy, was I in for a surprise. When I was just a teen, 23 sounded so old. “I’ll surely be married and have a baby by then,” I thought to myself. But as I’ve gotten older, my idea of “old” has changed. Now, 30 is the new threshold for old. New research says this idea will probably change too, as our perceptions of old age are ever-changing.

Quick Summary

This study from Michigan State University “Age Differences in Age Perceptions and Developmental Transitions,” says the older we get, the younger we feel. So, while 20 may sound old when we’re 15, and 30 may sound old when we’re in our early 20s, it’s common for that perception to change as we age.

Investigation and Findings

Researchers reached these findings after studying over half a million Americans and their opinions on old age. Nearly 30,000 study subjects reported that middle age starts around 30 years—despite the fact that life expectancy in the US has increased from 70 to 79 years since 1965.

The study participants—who ranged from 10 to 89 years of age—went on to answer questions about how long they wished to live. And interestingly enough, different age groups gave different answers: while kids and young adults hoped to live into their 90s, the majority of 30 and 40-year-old subjects reported an ideal age of 88. The number then steadily increased among 50-year-olds and reached a maximum age of 93 among the 80-year-olds.


This study shows that our perceptions of aging change with time. In summary, what we consider to be old changes as we grow old ourselves. The researchers suggest that we view older age as a negative experience when we’re young, but as we get older we realize that we can still live enriching lives.


Chopik, W. J., Bremner, R. H., & Johnson, D. J. (2018, February 1). Age Differences in Age Perceptions and Developmental Transitions. Frontiers in Psychology. Retrieved on February 28, 2018 from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00067/full