“I’m Not Old, Just Aging”: Perceptions of Subjective Age and Aging Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults

Document Type


Publication Date



The concept and act of “aging” can often carry a negative connotation in many Western societies; however, research suggests collective perceptions may be shifting as people are living longer lives. This cross-sectional study using survey methodology sought to understand how older people (N = 477) perceive their age by analyzing the responses of closed- and open-ended questions through summative content analysis. The mean age of participants was 63 years, and the average age that they felt was approximately 10 years younger. The seven themes for why individuals did not feel old ranged from maintaining an active and engaged lifestyle to “I don’t act or look old,” and the seven themes for why individuals felt old ranged from stopped or changed activities to nearing death. The findings illuminate how subjective age is shaped by perceptions of what it means to be old, and the ways in which these micronarratives are reflective of larger macronarratives surrounding age and aging.