How Old Are You REALLY?

Author:  Rhonda Latreille, MBA, CPCA
Founder & CEO
Age-Friendly Business®

I am celebrating a birthday this month. Often, when people know that, the braver souls venture forth and ask me “how old will you be?”

Before answering that question, though, I should really consider ‘which’ age I should share. We have different ages.

We have our chronological age, based on the number of years we have been alive on this earth.

We have our subjective age, based on the age we personally identify with – the age that we feel we are.

We have our biological age, which quantifies the rate at which your tissues, organs, and blood are aging.

Everyone is familiar with our chronological age, so let’s review our subjective and biological ages.

Subjective Age

Satchel Paige asked a provocative question:
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”

That is your subjective age, and it is getting a lot of attention from researchers.

According to a 10 year prospective study (conducted by Yannick Stephan, Joban Caudroit, Alban Jaconelli, Antonio Terracciano,) a younger subjective age at the baseline stage of the study was associated with better episodic memory and executive function scores at follow-up stages of testing.

Consistent with other studies, their participants reported feeling about 19% younger than their chronological age. A younger subjective age (SA) was…”more typical of older adults, those with higher education, lower disease burden, higher physical activity level, and lower Body Mass Index (BMI) at baseline. “

As we can see, participation in healthier lifestyles is associated with younger SA scores. Improved episodic memory may be the result of a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese, and improved executive functioning may be impacted in part through the engagement in regular physical activity.

It should be noted that influences and factors are inter-related. Those persons with younger SA scores and with higher memory self-efficacy are more likely to participate in intellectually stimulating activities. Furthermore, individuals reporting younger SA numbers may also be less impacted by societal negative stereotypes of aging. Bottom line – persons with…”a younger self-image are more likely to maintain a socially, intellectually, and physically active lifestyle, which in turn is beneficial for the cognitive functioning.”

The authors of this study caution that there is much more work to be done in this area. Is the relationship one of causation or co-relation? Studies need to be conducted to see if manipulation of your SA can influence cognitive performance over time. Although the relationship between SA and BMI and physical activity is supported in this study, it is plausible that the healthy BMI and activity levels influenced the younger subjective age – wholly or in part.

A more recent study (conducted by Seyul Kwak, Hairin Kim, Jeanyung Chey, and Toosik Youm,) looked at subjective age and brain health. They found that SA is in fact closely related to the process of brain aging. A subjective age OLDER than their chronological age is co-related to poorer biological markers. The older subjective experience of aging may be the result in part of awareness of already existing cognitive decline. Bottom line – those reporting older SA scores may be reflecting faster aging brain structures, while those reporting younger SA scores may have better preserved and healthier brain structures.


It appears that our chronological age is helpful in indicating when we can legally vote, drive, drink, and access seniors discounts. Beyond that – this number may not be particularly meaningful nor helpful. Our lifestyle, sense of agency over ourselves and our environment, our personal and general feelings and perceptions of aging, our physical and brain health, as well as the rate at which our cells and tissues are aging, all conspire collectively to reveal a picture more compelling and complex.

Perhaps I will forfeit the need to assign any number to my birthday celebration this month. Perhaps I will simply appreciate the opportunity to continue to embrace (for however long I can) moments of wonderment, challenge, growth, tears, love, and laughter.

Rhonda Latreille, MBA, CPCA
Founder & CEO
Age-Friendly Business


Our Biological Age

Your “phenotypic age,” or more commonly known as your biological age is a number based on various biomarkers. The good news is that a number of these biomarkers can change with lifestyle and health modifications.

Biological ages reflect a combination of genetics, accumulated lifestyle, and other determinants such as demographics, diet and exercise habits. The older we get, the greater the influence of lifestyle over genetics.



“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.”

Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

You may also like…

Heat Wave — Cool Down and Stay Safe

Heat Wave: Cool Down and Stay SafeSummertime brings about a much-anticipated reprieve from the cold, snowy, or rainy seasons. We often rush to enjoy the radiant sunshine and replenish our much-needed vitamin D. However, it’s crucial to be mindful of the potential...

Expanding Definition of Family

ExpandingDefinition of FamilyAs we age, the need for connection, acknowledgement, and engagement becomes even more pronounced. At the heart of this connection is the construct of family, becoming increasingly vital to our sense of self and well-being as we travel...

No Longer Here – But Never Forgotten

No Longer Here –But Never ForgottenA remarkable and cherished woman passed away a few months ago.  She was a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, mentor, role model, businesswoman, and confidante.  Her name was June, and she was my sister-in-law.  I was blessed to...

Building a Legacy That Goes Beyond Material Wealth

Building a Legacy That Goes Beyond Material WealthHave you ever wondered what lasting legacy you will leave behind for future generations? While accumulating material wealth can be significant, passing on values and characteristics that will stand the test of time is...

Light – Circadian Rhythms – Health and Well Being

Light –Circadian Rhythms – Health and Well BeingDid you know that your tissues and organs have their own biological clocks?  Even more compelling is the fact that these clocks are coordinated and synchronized! The conductor of this grand synchronization is a ‘master...

Sleep Better to Live Longer

Sleep Better toLive LongerIt has long been accepted that we need good nutrition and regular exercise to contribute toward our health and longevity. Did you know that quality sleep was just as important? We always think about sleep as being restive – and this is true....

Cognitive Reserve – Can We Beat Biology?

Cognitive Reserve –Can We Beat Biology?We know we are living longer — but are we living better?  Most would agree that it is not just about adding more years to our life story, it is about making sure those years enriching and rewarding. Too often, though, we know of...

Intergenerational Learning : What Is Old Is New Again

IntergenerationalLearning :What Is Old Is New AgainImagine young and old coming together to experience, learn, and share. Innovative new programming, or a dusting off of the way it used to be? With our aging population, we see emerging examples of intergenerational...