Age? . . . Really? Distinctions, Degrees, Nuances


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

“Age:” Whatever . . .

We are more and less than our chronological age! We are, simultaneously, many different ages!  Regardless of our chronological age, “distinctions” can be made that position us at younger, older, or “consonant” with our chronological ages as a function of different dimensions of our behavior and existence.

Chronological age is both an “objective” index of our life (i.e., birth date, medical test score) and a “subjective” index (i.e., nuances, shades). Consider the following oft-heard words:

Teacher: “I know you are 7-years old, but you have the computer skills of an ICT college graduate.” (Hmmm, is there virtue in gaming?)

Physician: “I know you are 40-years old, but your lungs are 70. Quit smoking!” (Thanks, Doc! It’s the air pollution, not the cigarettes!)

Date:  I know you are 60-years old, but you look like you are 40. (Hmm, is your date after your money?)

Podiatrist: “I know you are 24-years old, but if you don’t stop punting and kicking field goals, you will have 70-year old feet in a year.” (Hmmm, Doc, guess how much money I make a year?).

Therapist: “I know you are 80-years old, but you have the wisdom of teenager, and with the same consequences!” (Ahhh! Those were good years, necking, cars, sock-hops, no guilt, no shame!)

Everyone:Act your age!”  Reply:I don’t know how! I have never been this age before.” (I have been unable to trace these wise words to any specific person:  Johnny Depp and Queen Abby come up from searches; Regardless of source, the words have an inherent wisdom).

Different Ages  

Regardless of our chronological age, there are a number of possible “ages.” Obviously, gender, socio-cultural background and ethnicity, body status, and other identity markers must be considered. Age is a controversial topic! Here are some suggested “ages.”

  • Chronological Age: Refers to the date of your birth.  For example, 73 years old.  Can’t change that one — legally!
  • Medical Condition Age: Refers to your medical or health condition. The typical phrase we hear uttered: She is 73, but her health is that of a 50-year woman. Unfortunately, her husband has the health of a 90-year old.(Patience is a virtue!)
  • Technology Literacy Age: Refers to the ability to understand and to navigate the new communication technologies, especially electronic equipment (e.g., I-Phone) and various social media connections (e.g., Facebook, Twitter).

For example, do you still use a slide rule or abacus?  If so, you can be assured of several consequences: (1) You are happy and less stressed, (2) You are exposed to less electronic signal waves problem (e.g., EMR), and (3) You cannot be considered a Nerd; (4) You still have privacy)

  • Wisdom Age: Refers to the ability or capacity to use one’s knowledge in ways advancing one’s personal life and the human condition.  Typically, this involves sharing “philosophical” and/or existential” insights rooted in lived human experience.

Wisdom is not always easily recognized by others, especially younger generations failing to grasp parental sage advice: “Life gives you the test first, and tells you what you should have studied for afterwards.”

Older people can tell you what you need to study, and so help you pass the test, unless, of course, the test is on algorithms  (sp), coding, gaming, thumb-texting.  

  • Physical Appearance Age: Refers to whether or not one’s physical appearance, especially facial and body features related to attractiveness, is commensurate with one’s chronological age.

This, of course, is based on the assumption that everyone ages in accord with their age, independent of life experiences, genes, diet, and access to vitamins and blenders. Plastic surgery and various health promotion techniques have made it possible to look one age while being another chronologically.

Unfortunately, the pursuit of a younger facial and physical appearance has become an addiction for some. Joan Rivers, the famous comedienne, asks: “Am I smiling?” She cannot tell because scores of plastic surgeries have destroyed her facial nerves.  I wonder if she has had any surgery on other body parts, and if so, what does she ask when they are displayed: “Am I ——?”

  • Legal Age: Refers to the age associated with certain rights, privileges, and categorical or status opportunities or limitations.  For example, whether we qualify for elderly discounts, tax credits, and retirement benefits according to the law.  And let us remember, the law does not guarantee justice; is because many ageing lawmakers have passed away.
  • Sexual Activity Age: Refers to the controversial “age” requiring consideration of mutual satisfaction.  Self-nomination for this age may be problematic because it may involve illusions or delusions of grandeur. The fact of the matter is “sex” is far more than intercourse and orgasm.  It involves an array of pre-post satisfaction indices, regarding enjoyment of both parties.

For many elderly people, sexual intercourse is often less satisfying than other pleasurable acts including: touching, massaging, kissing, hugging, whispering, fantasy creations, and cuddling.  Each of these acts involves “passion;” perhaps we should call this “Passion Age,” since vitality itself is rewarding in a relationship.

  • Parental Age: Refers to the fact making a baby is easier than raising a baby from birth to adulthood and beyond. The responsibilities, obligations, and duties of parenthood are demanding.  It is not only a question of the provision of food, housing, clothing, money, toys, and other essentials for comfort and survival, but also love, wisdom, and attachment. It is a lifelong-age because “care for children,” never ends, nor does their need for money for a score of reasons.
  • Courage Age: Refers to your willingness by choice or reflex to act on behalf of the safety and security of yourself under circumstances of risk or threat to life and well-being. While we often associate this of daring acts of physical bravery by soldiers, police, firemen, parents, and friends, it is essential we recognize the courage in standing for principle and values against oppression, authority, corruption, cronyism, and criminal acts. Courage is a both a situational and a character quality. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott-King, as examples of courage.
  • Citizen Age: Refers to active participation in meeting one’s civil responsibilities and duties, including voting, being informed of current events, and choosing to respond in non-violent ways when one disagrees.  Globalization has brought us to the point of having to participate in a “global community,” not just a town, city, or neighborhood. The key is citizen participation at any level.  Just make a difference! Be there!
  • Spiritual Age: Refers to our ability to understand we are not separate beings, but rather we are connected to each other, and to all of life about us. This connection is the basis of awe and reference for the unknown; it goes beyond religious dogma, creeds, and doctrines. Spirituality is a way of being in the world at any “age” type.
  • Creativity Age: Refers to a person’s capacity for grasping  “creativity” is present in each action we take, be it cooking, conversation, dressing, shopping, parenting, or walking.  It is not limited to the creative arts (e.g., poetry, painting, and singing).  Creativity age is about your personal nature to every behavior — something unique and distinctly yours; there will only be one of you ever in the world.  Do things with your “being” style!
  • Feet Age: Refers to the age status of your feet. Consider the fact your feet are your frequent, perhaps dominant, contact with the Earth. You stand, walk, run, and use them in numerous ways. Your entire body-weight presses upon your feet via your hips, knees, and ankles, and you do this across a lifetime, from baby steps to walker and cane assisted use.

For scores of reasons, pressures on the feet exact a toll limiting the utility and health and well-being. Being chronologically young does not guarantee a young foot age, similarly being chronologically elderly does not mean a comparable foot age. website states a foot is made up of 26 bones, 42 muscles, 33 joints, 50 tendons and ligaments, and 250,000 sweat glands. Hmmm! I wonder what this means for soccer players and field goal kickers? Is there a certain wisdom in the saying: “Don’t kick a person when they are down!”

A search reveals scores of foot problems: athlete’s foot, fallen arch, bunion, gout, arthritis, Plantar Fasciitis, neuropathy, callouses, corns, pronation, curved toes, webbed toes.  Some politicians suffer from foot-in-mouth dysfunctions, an inversion of body parts based on their expressed ignorant words and opinions.  What is your Foot Age?

  • Warrior Age: Refers to the question of what constitutes a “warrior.” For the many, this “age” often takes the form of fighting and violence. One can be a peaceful warrior, via a just cause, stance and gaze. More needs to be said about peaceful warriors in this time of militarism.

Be a “peaceful warrior” at any age. The willingness to act courageously in the face of social challenges and to stand against an abusive foe while relying on non-violence helps define a Peaceful Warrior.

  • Travel Age: Refers to the ability/capacity to engage in air travel. While some people can endure the requirements, demands, and hardships of air travel, others are less capable.  The entire process is a challenge at any age:

Decision to fly to some location; Choice of airlines based on cost, proximity service, prior experience, distance to   airport; Purchase of ticket with all issues related to seating           and class; Traveling to airport, and parking; Negotiating       the airline counter and checking in; Acceptance of unknown rules and regulations; Security; Waiting,   eating, opening peanut packages, toilet use; Boarding/seating/seat-partner; Flight duration and quality; Arrival and departing delays; Risks of infections and illness. Travel source: auto, bus, cruise ship, airlines, wings?

On and on! Traveling isn’t fun; it requires constant accommodations to legal, cultural, and situational demands.  People differ in their ability and preference for traveling. If only we had wings? Perhaps one day we may? Be careful what you wish for, you may get it. What is your Travel Age?


Closing Remarks

Ask yourself: Where am I at this point in my life regarding the many possible different ages beyond my chronological age?”

I suggest you take cautions with the popular phrase: You are as young as you feel!”  The words invite delusional bias! In addition, they depend upon what part of the body you can still feel!

We need to think of ourselves as more than our chronological age. Why? Because chronological age is filled with pre-ordained stereotypes regarding: “What one can be.” “What one should be.” “What one is not.” Conventional opinions limit our age possibilities!

Be yourself! You are a person of many ages at any given time. Remember there is only one you, with a number of different manifestations. There is diversity amidst your unity.

Is there a secret for all ages? Yes! The secret for all ages can be heard as Pavarotti sings magnificent closing aria of Puccini’s opera, Turandot.  The secret is “Love!” 

Do you love? Can you love? Have you loved?  Will you love?  Do you wish to be loved?”  A secret for all ages!


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu.  He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. His TMS articles may be accessed HERE and he can be reached at

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Jun 2023.

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