Chronology and Aging

Our society will continue to insist on using chronological age for many purposes. We can live with this practice if we recognize that to set up a chronological checkpoint for calling a person ‘old’ is simply a matter of administrative or statistical convenience. It is an unfortunate usage but difficult to avoid. We can, as a society, minimize the negative impact of this practice by making a clear distinction in our own minds between chronological age and the individual’s actual physical, mental and social situation. We can also refuse to be swept along by the implicit relationship between chronological age and human value. ‘Ten years older’ does not mean ‘ten years worse’ or ‘ten years less valuable.’

            Age-grading emphasizes society’s interest; functional age emphasizes the direct facts about the individual.

Problems arise when a person is not given the opportunity to function as he or she is able, because of environmental restrictions, or often, simply matters of social control. More awareness of these differing frameworks would help us develop flexible pathways through the entire lifespan. It would also help if we bear in mind the difference between aging and being old.

Aging can be looked on as a process or set of processes. We go on aging for years and years. Oldness, however, is a state of mind. It is defined for us by outer standards, as in chronological age, or by our own judgment. We can set ‘oldness’ relatively late in life. We can also choose to regard it as a desirable or dreadful condition, or we can just try to forget about it; but I, personally, must leave that path to others.

The functional age must also be used wisely and carefully and not made captive to an automatic formula-ridden method of age classification. When we say, “I feel like a ____ year old, we are offering one kind of functional definition. We tend to judge that we are functioning like a person of a certain age, whether that be older, younger, or the same as our calendar age.

However functional age is subject to potential misuse. For example, it would be silly to jump to conclusions about a person because of gray hair alone. Graying of hair can be an excellent indicator of physiological aging in general, and an estimation of further opportunities for occupational advancements and an indicator of social age.

I once read somewhere that “age was no criterion for the enterprising.” If this is so, and I believe it, then “where there IS a will, there IS a way.


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Sr. Maria Teresita Velez Manaloto - Monday, August 07, 2017

There is also another view point that can be added to the way we define "the old" as far as chronological age is in usage. In my own experience of our Filipino Culture, being classified as "the old" means that whoever you are, you reach this level of respect no matter what you do or not do. Being of this group automatically gives you the right to respect and deference or reference. It's not so bad that you "come of age"... and be a recipient of this honor and care!

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