mental age

Mental age differs a lot from the chronological age. Would you like to know your true age?

If I asked you how old you are, I have no doubt you would give me your chronological age. But if I posed that question in a different way, for example, how old do you feel inside, I wonder what you would tell me?

Our age defines us in so many areas of our life. From work opportunities, relationships, keeping us safe when we are young, stopping us embarrassing ourselves when we are old, and so on.

But what does our chronological age actually mean? All it signifies are the years we have existed on this planet. Milestone birthdays hit us hard but what really is the significance of the day when we are 29 years and 364 days old, and the next day when we are 30 years old?

Chronological age doesn’t take into account the environment or political time that we were born into, our social standing, our responsibilities (or lack of them), or many other things that shape how old we feel inside – our mental age. It does, however, have a huge impact on our self-image.

So why don’t we disregard this old-fashioned way of looking at age and instead focus on more modern methods?

As Satchel Paige said:

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”

Some researchers believe that our true age is not the number of years we have existed, but a combination of where we sit alongside three dimensions.

The three dimensions are described as your functional ages and represent your biological, psychological and social age.

Biological Age

Biological age is the age of your body; how old it is faring compared to how old you are. There are ways to calculate your biological age but these typically use instruments that are only available at a doctors or hospital, such as a spirometer to gauge lung function, and tests to determine heart rate and kidney function.

However, lifestyle choices can give some clues as to how well your body is functioning. If you exercise on a regular basis, eat healthily, do not smoke or drink alcohol or consume junk food it is likely that your body has a young biological age.

Psychological or Mental Age

Your psychological or mental age is all about how you process knowledge, understand through thought and how well you remember. It’s about how you think and feel towards others but also how you cope with your own emotions and feelings.

Two important factors in psychological age are your memory and your emotions.

Your memory is constantly in use, not just for recalling past events, but for every single thing you have seen, smelled, heard, watched, recognised, understood, read, and so on. Your memory is the building block which allows you function as a human being each day. However, your brain requires oxygen in order to operate and this declines as we age. We can assume therefore that our mental acuity will also decline.

Our emotions should mature as we age, as experience gives us examples to work through and learn from. So whereas we would want our memory to remain young, emotionally we would wish for maturity and wisdom as this combination gives us a younger mental age overall. This is because when we have less stress from disagreeable situations, our mental facilities are freed up and we can use our cognitive resources more effectively. This overall effect slows the aging of our psychological age.

Social Age

Our social clock deals with two major areas of life: family and work, and in particular, the precise times these should be achieved. With family, most cultures expect couples to become parents in their late 20’s or early 30’s. They should also be married or in a serious relationship. This then allows them to become grandparents in their 60’s.

With work, we are generally expected to graduate from high school in our late teens, go on to college and leave with a degree before entering the workplace. At 60 we’ll retire. Your own social clock may differ from the norm. You may not have gone to college, having started work straight from school. You might have retired early due to a career in a dangerous job, such as a firefighter.

Of course, as times change and we become freer in our attitudes, we do not feel we have to be constrained by social norms. Think about the 1950’s housewife compared to today’s businesswoman.

And so we return to our earlier question, how old do you feel? Some people feel they are younger than their chronological age and others believe they are older.

We call these people young at heart and old souls.

Young at Heart

When I spoke to family and friends, the overwhelming feeling amongst them was that they felt much younger than their chronological age. This was with two exceptions; a heavily pregnant young woman who was about to give birth and a friend who had a chronic, painful ailment. Many friends felt their true age lay between 20 and 25, but why? Some attributed their youthful outlook to having teenage children, which they said keep them young at heart. Others said that having children at a young age themselves kept them younger inside.

Of the two exceptions that said they felt older, it’s interesting to note that it was their biological age that had aged them, and not their mental age.

Old Souls

Have you ever meet someone who seems wise beyond their years? People that have old souls tend to gravitate towards older people and prefer their own company. They are typically very spiritual and crave knowledge. They are able to solve trivial disputes as they can see the bigger picture.

Old souls are rarely materialistic and look to fulfilment in more important issues such as the environment, world peace and personal enlightenment.

We hope we’ve given you something to think about the next time someone asks how old you are.

What about you? How old do you feel inside? We would love to hear your opinion.



Image credit: Tom Hussey “Reflections”

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Janey D.

Janey D.

Janey Davies has been published online for over 8 years. She is the head writer for, she also writes for, and has contributed to She has an Honours Degree in Psychology and her passions include learning about the mind, popular science and politics. When she is relaxing she likes to walk her dog, read science fiction and listen to Muse.