Why do some people age terribly

Satisfied aging today & in the future

People are living longer and longer, society in industrialized countries is aging. This makes individual and social challenges of a long life more obvious, such as dealing with illness and the question of adequate care and prevention.

Researchers at the Institute for Psychogerontology at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) deal with various aspects of age and aging. With Prof. Dr. Frieder R. Lang, head of the institute and organizer of the conference, spoke about "Aging as a future - Successful aging today and in the future".

Professor Lang, in the research project “Aging as a Future” you are dealing with the question of how images of age and aging change over time. What do you notice?

“It is well known that personal perceptions of age affect how you age and how well you age. However, it also plays an important role whether it is a realistic view or an overly positive or negative expectation. Most people differentiate which aspect of their life is involved and have different images of age for the different areas of their life. It can be, for example, that you see your own age very positively when it comes to living conditions, friends or family, but not so positively when it comes to mobility or productivity. So it can happen that you prepare yourself quite well for old age with regard to certain aspects and not with regard to other topics. We are also interested in personal schedules and how to prepare for the future. For example, it makes a difference whether you start thinking about age early or late. So far, what we all believe and what is always emphasized seems to be confirmed: It is never too late to start something new. "

Many 60-year-olds don't feel old at all yet. However, you are already interviewing 30-year-olds for your examinations. Why?

“In modern aging research, the insight has gained acceptance that one can understand age better if one also takes into account how the previous life went. In retrospect, however, we often assess our youth differently than when we experienced it, and looking ahead we often assess our future age differently than when we are old. So it is important to do an age comparison if you want to understand age. And of course it is also important to learn how things develop over longer periods of time. We therefore depend on it and are grateful when people agree to repeatedly take part in surveys. We know, for example, that 30-year-olds tend to think of old age as very extreme as either very good or very awful. 80-year-olds, on the other hand, usually describe their experience of old age as more complex and not just good or just bad. "

When you think of aging, the keyword “precaution” first comes to mind. What other aspects are you investigating?

“Basically, the main question is how one can lead an active and long life in a healthy way and with the highest possible level of well-being. This should be possible at any age. It's about which strategies and life principles can help. Today we already know that supposedly simple recipes rarely or not at all work in individual cases. Often it is about decisions, wishes and behaviors that cannot be put into simple formulas. So the question is, in what way, from the great variety of different aging processes of people, one can recognize those that are associated with health, well-being and long life. "

On which topics related to age and aging do we still know comparatively little?

“It is important to keep in mind that old age, especially old age, is a very recent experience in human history and is basically also an almost unknown social phenomenon. Anyone who is 90 years old today has rarely known someone in their previous life who was that age. Those who are 30, 50 or even 60 years old today, on the other hand, often have grandparents who are still alive or parents of a very old age. Within just a few generations, we have discovered old age as a new and independent phase of life and are now probably facing one of the greatest future projects of mankind: How a society of long life can be designed in such a way that prosperity, productivity and health are maintained. There are many more open questions than solutions. "

Scientists in Hong Kong and the USA are also involved in the project. Do different societies age differently?

“As is well known, life expectancy is increasing worldwide. In China, for example, life expectancy is increasing much faster than in Europe or the USA, where the trend even seems to be reversing in some regions. How well aging works depends to a large extent on the respective social living conditions and also on the personal lifestyles that are reflected in them. Aging has many faces and is very complex. It is surprising, however, that despite this fact that is actually well known, little is known about how images of aging and how people deal with old age differ in different societies. There are many unresolved questions, such as why, for example, the health and well-being of older people differ significantly in many regions, even if the living conditions are the same. For example, in Germany it is important for many older people not to be dependent on others, while in many Asian countries the opposite is often the case and it is natural to be dependent on other people. "

What do you wish for in an aging society?

“As I deal a lot with age in other cultures, I am convinced that our society has already achieved and achieved a lot that is considered a model elsewhere. There may be a lot we can do to improve, but it is important to understand how we got this far. A long life is always best where older people actively participate in social life and help shape society of their own free will and of their own accord. Nobody is too old to have a good life. Aging as the future means that there is no age when something is not ahead of us. I would certainly like to see the end of life in particular in the focus of our considerations. This, too, is a question of the future for practically everyone: an end in dignity and without pain. "


Julia Schmidt / Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg | last changed on at 17:05