Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Ageless Generation Appears

Usually when we hear about life expectancy rising and death rates falling, the good news is accompanied by handwringing about living in a "greying world" and a supposedly increasing proportion of people who must depend on others for health reasons. But times are changing, as life at certain age groups is not what it was even one generation ago.

The sun rises on a new era.
Source: vonderauvisuals (CC: 2.0)
Who would have thought that this could be a 51 year old woman's life: teaching yoga at a hip hotel and club; sharing clothes and yoga challenges with her 19 year old daughter; and in love with travelling? Such is the life of Polly Kemp, and it's becoming increasingly common. While she is "under no illusion" that she is or looks 19, she knows that she is far more youthful than her mother at the same age. She says, "When I hear the term “middle-aged”, I have to stop and think, 'Is this meant to be me?' I don’t polish silver or plan menus, and I’m not interested in housework. I am also spontaneous  and I don't think that's a quality traditionally associated with middle age". Even the author of the article adds that 40 years ago, she would have pictured her 53 year old self as having much shorter, greyer hair, and wearing "frocks and face powder" instead of jeans and CC cream. And it isn't just these two women, either. In a survey of over 500 women performed by the UK Telegraph, 96% of women over 40 do not consider themselves to be "middle-aged". Ninety percent said they had a younger attitude than their mothers at the same age; 84% used products and services aimed at younger women; and almost two thirds said they felt as vibrant and young as they ever had. Unfortunately, the media hasn't caught up to these changes, choosing to hold onto the old ways. Women over 40, 50, 60 and sometimes even older are no longer confining their lives to, as the Telegraph describes, "lawnmowers and Rotary Clubs, cheese and wine parties, elastic waists, river cruises and walking tours of Madeira". I myself could not imagine my friends of those ages living in such a restricted way!

The "ageless generation", also referred to as "perennials", is also gaining ground in a literal sense. As far back as 1939, British statisticians Major Greenwood and J.O. Irwin found that aging seems to stop at around 90! Even they were confused, stating that "At first sight this must seem a preposterous speculation". Not only did their findings seem counterintuitive, but 1939 was also a bad year to attempt making scientific history because of other world events. Much more recently, Michael Rose has done more research on the matter, with even data from other species showing that there is a point where aging stops if you live long enough - at about 90 for humans, but at different times for other animals.

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