Author: Clare Ansberry
Researchers are studying when we feel our best and why - giving new relevance to the question of the ideal age.
Are your best years ahead of you or behind you?
The ideal age is a question that Jay Olshansky thinks about often. Dr. Olshansky, an epidemiologist, is researching ways to slow down the process of aging, by studying things like the genetics of long-lived individuals.
“If you had a pill that could stop biological aging in its tracks, when would you take it?” asks Dr. Olshansky, a professor at UIC School of Public Health in Chicago.
He asks his university students this question. Many think 30 is old, so they would take the pill in their 20s. He asked his father, then 95 years old. His father said 50 was the best year because the kids were grown and he was in good health. Dr. Olshanky, 63, says life is good for him now, but if he had to pick a perfect year, it would probably be 50, too, because that was before he started having little aches and pains.
Researchers like Dr. Olshansky are trying to understand the mysteries of longevity and at what ages we feel our best and why. They measure worry and stress levels at different times in our life and peak years for having fun, the hope being that if people reach satisfaction with life at a certain age, they might have advice for the rest of us. Such exploration in the world of science and health is putting a more concrete focus on the seemingly inscrutable question of the perfect age.
Some of their findings might surprise us. Many people in their 50s don’t want to be 30. Seventy-year-olds are among the most satisfied, perhaps because they are also among the group seen as “time affluent.” Less surprising is that no one, regardless of age, wants to look or feel old, which is why anti-aging creams that promise to remove wrinkles and eye bags sell so well.
But is there an age that is better than all the rest?
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