Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Age is Just a Number, Isn't It?

We all know that although age may be used to determine eligibility for certain programs, being old is more than just your chronological age.  A new study bears this out. Warren C. Sanderson and Sergei Schrebov published a note, The Characteristics Approach to the Measurement of Population Aging, in Population & Development Review.  Although a subscription is required to access the full article, the abstract, available here, provides

Conventional measures of population aging, such as proportions over age 65, can present a misleading picture of the aging process by not taking account of changes in people's characteristics beyond their chronological age—for example, changes in remaining life expectancy, health and morbidity, disability rates, and cognitive functioning. The “characteristics approach” set out in this article encompasses multiple features of population aging, yielding new measures that can better inform both demographic analysis and public policy debate. We relate the brief history of this approach, examine its basic mathematical structure, and give empirical examples of the insights it offers, drawing on data from West Germany, Japan, Russia, and the United States.

A December 16, 2013 article in the Huff/Post50 about the study quotes one of the researchers from a release "'Your true age is not just the number of years you have lived. It also includes characteristics such as health, cognitive function, and disability rates...'"

I loved the researcher's description of "'[a]ging [as] "multi-dimensional.'" Is 60 the new 40? Well, 60 is still 60 in terms of years. But, as the article goes on to quote Sergei Scherbov: "'We used to consider people old at age 65. Today, someone who is 65 may be more like someone who was 55, 45 years ago in terms of many important aspects of their lives...'"


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Ironically, the construct behind their approach seems to be that old age equals illness, impaired functioning, and frailty.

Posted by: Charlie Sabatino | Dec 18, 2013 7:25:13 AM

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