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34, 21, 50 – How old is old?

I’m confused. I’ll be 50 in September. But that’s not the reason for my confusion. It’s more like the source of my occasional back pain. I’m confused because my fitness app says I’m 21.

Since I’ve been working in Zurich, I’ve been going to the gym a lot – about two or three times a week. Given we live in a time where everything has to be documented, it’s no surprise I track all my fitness activities on an app. I’m no exception to the rule there. My motto is if it’s not been recorded, it didn’t happen. I also go jogging regularly at the weekend. And yes, you guessed it. I even have an app for that.

But now I’m confused.

According to my fitness app, my biological age is 21 and my running app is adamant I’m 34. Here’s the thing. I’ll be 50 in September. Does that make me even out at 35? Now that got you thinking.

Mind vs biology

How old are we really? Do we start counting from birth until today? What about the nine months you spent in your mum’s belly? I mean, you were alive then. Or are we as old as we feel? And how do biological ages come into the picture? You can do tests like these online to find out.

There’s also another and perhaps more precise method for determining your biological age. It’s called an H-scan.

Whichever way you choose to calculate your age, there’s one thing that’s undeniable: we’re all getting older. Unless, of course, you happen to be Brad Pitt in the film where he’s born as an old man and dies as a baby.

Dry statistics

Age distribution has changed massively in Switzerland over the course of the 20th century.

  • The proportion of young people (under 20s) dropped from 40.7% (1900) to 20.1% (2016)
  • The number of over 64s rose from 5.8% to 18.1%
  • There has been a marked increase in the older population (80 years and over) from 0.5% to 5.1%.

This demographic ageing process is a result of increased life expectancy and a drop in the birth rate. This trend is set to continue in the 21st century. By 2045, the proportion of over 65s is expected to rise from 18.1% (2016) to around 26% (Source: Swiss Federal Statistical Office).

Statistically-speaking, the subsequent life expectancy for 65 year olds is 22.6 years for women and 19.8 years for men.

Help, we keep getting older

We’re always getting older. That’s nothing new. But neither are the problems linked to ageing. Think old age pension (AHV), healthcare costs and a gazillion other things. According to the statistics, I still have another 34.8 years or so to live – or if the apps are anything to go by, 50.8 and 63.8 years respectively. I’m inclined to believe the apps more than the Federal Statistical Office. Although it would probably be better for society cost-wise if I just kicked the bucket here and now.

Objective vs subjective

When I was 30, I had midlife crisis. It’s strange. For the first time in my life I felt old. You somehow just don’t fit in with the party crowd. You know your twenties are well and truly over when you need two days to get over a night on the tiles. In the past, one day would have been plenty. Your 30s are also the time when you get to know things like lower back pain. When I think back on that today I can’t help but laugh. That was nothing!

What was interesting was that at that time, all my friends, colleagues and family were reassuring me 30 wasn’t old at all. That the best years were still to come. That I shouldn’t make such a fuss.

Then when I turned 40 I felt great. Your 30s really aren’t as bad as you might think. You’re taken seriously; you’re not on the scrap heap quite yet; you know what you’re doing and you have life experience. Age isn’t an issue.

Now I’m fast approaching 50 and I’m feeling pretty good. I think I keep myself fit, do a lot of exercise, haven’t smoked in almost five years and eat healthily. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes my lower back twinges or my knee plays up. But I’m doing what I need to. I go to my prostate screening appointments – we’ll gloss over that! Apart from a bit of wear and tear, everything under the hood is in good working order. And yet...

You know you’re old when you hear things like «50? You don’t look that old.» Let’s face it, no one says that when you’re 23. While they mean well and it’s flattering, it still plays on my mind. What’s strange is I often hear that 50 is the new 30. But by the same token, there are some forty-somethings slap bang in the middle of a midlife crisis.

Thank goodness that’s already behind me. Every few months, the Swiss TV channel SRF airs discussion programmes about retiring at 67. But the fact of the matter is, you can’t find a job once you reach 45. We keep getting older and it would seem we’re getting older even earlier.

50, 34, 21, 0

If my fitness app carries on in the same vein with its predictions about my biological age, I’ll be a baby any day now. Benjamin Button says hello. But seriously, I’ve decided to take a more relaxed approach to getting older from now on. I don’t want to be worrying about it constantly for the next 34.8 years. So, folks, let’s give ourselves a bit of a break and enjoy life a bit. After all, we get older without having to try.

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Patrick Bardelli, Zurich

  • Senior Editor
Crunches, High Plank Limb Raises, Low Plank, Russian Twist, Side Plank Oblique Crunch, Jumping Jacks, Mountain Climbers, Quick Feet, Squat Stars, Butt Kicker Jump Squats, Calf Raises, Curtsy Lunges, Jump Squats, Lunge & Twist, Lunge to Front Kick, Single-Leg Deadlift, Wall Sit, Alligator Push-ups, Commander Push-ups, Declined Wall Push-ups, Narrow Push-ups, Narrow-to-Wide Push-ups, Single-Leg Push-ups, Stagger Push-ups, Burpees, 10k – 21.1k runs…and then there’s work, family, a dog, a cat … and another week is over.

3 comments

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User xazax

Sehr cooler Artikel!

03.05.2018
User Patrick Bardelli

Freut mich, danke!

03.05.2018
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User Anonymous

Hauptsache man ist gesund und glücklich. :)

03.05.2018