The Difference Between Aging and Getting Old

October 28, 2019
Why do some people seem to feel the weight of their years and others age without ever feeling old? Today, we'll look at the difference between aging and getting old.

Why do some people seem to age better than others? To answer that question, people often talk about health or finances. However, there’s something that we often overlook: there’s a difference between aging and getting old.

When you look closely, it doesn’t seem that health or economic status is the real reason for the difference. Yes, they certainly play a role. However, many healthy people with great finances are fairly miserable and vice-versa.

People with a youthful spirit don’t feel old, in spite of their age. On the contrary, many older adults complain about having to do “old people” activities. At the end of the day, it’s a completely different way of understanding the aging process.

An old guy with glasses smiling.

Not all older adults feel old

My father never felt old. Until the day he died, he always had many long-term plans and activities to fill his days.

I never saw him throw in the towel or give in to the limits or losses of age. His physical decline never stopped him. My father didn’t like the company of those his age because he said they had turned into old people, which always made me laugh.

Even his illness didn’t change his attitude. In the last few years of his life, he dealt with a fairly serious heart condition. Nevertheless, my father always had a good sense of humor about it and never let his condition rule his life.

When I stop and think about it, I realize that he lived his whole life that way. He never felt truly comfortable around people his age. My father always surrounded himself with young people. He was a mentor for many young people interested in aviation, sharing his experiences and teaching them about his craft.

My childhood home was almost like a school, always full of young people and always full of life. My father was always surrounded by curious minds who wanted to learn and plan future projects. He loved teaching them about what he loved. As he got older, this didn’t change. Maybe this is the best way to age. He was a great example for me.

Why do people age badly?

This is a hard question to answer. Some people don’t change very much as they age, while others do. Maybe you get closer to your true self when you age. Maybe at that point, you don’t have the energy to hide who you really are.

Often, older adults who are bad-tempered, angry, and frustrated are just a reflection of how they lived their lives. In many cases, these grumpy older people were probably like that before they got older. The fact of the matter is that it just gets harder and harder to hide your true nature, which starts to manifest in every aspect of your life.

Aging gracefully

People who are young at heart seem to share some characteristics and qualities. In these traits, you can find the true difference between aging and getting old.

Can you avoid aging before your time? Can you age without feeling old? What’s the secret to enjoying a meaningful, complete, and satisfying life as you get older? Here are some strategies that are the legacy of vivacious elders:

An older couple having fun outside.

The key to staying young at heart

One important strategy is to stay passionate, no matter your age. Choose activities that motivate and excite you. Be creative, volunteer, make plans, and keep a daily agenda.

Build and maintain healthy relationships with the people around you. Family is important, of course, but lasting friendships can be a guarantee of future emotional well-being. Altruism is another common trait that happy older people share.

Helping others gives you a sense of meaning. It makes you feel that your life is worth something because you’re useful to someone else. Being able to help other people also has a positive effect on your self-esteem.

People who are young at heart love to have fun and have a great sense of humor. Laughter is a source of vitality, as no one is ever too old to have fun. Cultivating a good sense of humor is also an excellent exercise for your brain.

Beliefs, personal values, and spiritual practices are also very important. They seem to be an inexhaustible source of life and vitality for many people.

The challenge of aging or getting old

You don’t start to develop these qualities that seem to be the difference between aging and getting old when you reach a certain age. After all, we’re all getting older every day.

How you live your life now and how you feel today in your own skin will determine whether or not you age gracefully. Are you prepared for the challenge?

Grover, Sean (2015) Aging vs. Growing Old? What’s the Difference? Sean Grover blog. Recuperado de http://www.seangrover.com/how-to-age-without-growing-old/

Singh, A., & Misra, N. (2009). Loneliness, depression and sociability in old age. Industrial psychiatry journal, 18(1), 51–55. doi:10.4103/0972-6748.57861

Musich, S., Wang, S. S., Kraemer, S., Hawkins, K., & Wicker, E. (2018). Purpose in Life and Positive Health Outcomes Among Older Adults. Population health management, 21(2), 139–147. doi:10.1089/pop.2017.0063