A new study gives new life to the expressions by introducing a new method to monitoring aging in a population — an approach that uses a variety of factors in association with chronological age.
The groundbreaking study provides a new toolbox of methodologies for demographers to better understand the impacts of an aging population on society.
Previously, studies of aging used only one characteristic of people, their chronological age.
The new study provides a framework for measuring aging based instead on characteristics of people that change with age, including life expectancy, health, cognitive function and other measures.
These measures can be used by demographers to better understanding aging societies.
“Your true age is not just the number of years you have lived,” said researcher Sergei Scherbov, Ph.D., of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. It also includes characteristics such as health, cognitive function, and disability rates.
Demographers have not traditionally used such measures in studies of population and society, instead using age as a proxy for those characteristics.
But as lifespans get longer, the same age no longer correlates with the same level of health and other such characteristics.
“We used to consider people old at age 65,” said Scherbov.
“Today, someone who is 65 may be more like someone who was 55 forty-fifty years ago in terms of many important aspects of their lives.”
The authors show that policy recommendations with respect to aging differ depending on exactly which characteristics of people are measured.
“For different purposes we need different measures. Aging is multidimensional,” said Scherbov.
By reconceptualizing population aging to incorporate how people actually function, the study seeks to provide the foundation of a much richer and more realistic view of population aging.