Psychological Aging Clocks: a Measure of Emotional Health and Well-being?


Having seen how perceived age has a great influence on promoting health and coping with physical diseases, closer attention should be paid to how stressful life events negatively affect health outcomes and biological aging.

"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?" (Satchel Paige)

Looking at the bright side of the medal, aging brings wisdom, experience, temperance, and a bag of memories. Unfortunately, however, age is also associated with progressive cognitive and physical decline, which in some cases may exacerbate chronic and neurodegenerative diseases.

In previous articles, I have discussed how aging, in its biological process, may deviate from its normal trajectory, manifesting the onset of pathologies, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Alzheimer’s and dementia is recognized as one of the most common diseases and the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Therefore, besides the progressive decline of learning, memory, and physical activity, emotional well-being is affected which requires a closer look because it is highly connected with cognitive and physical functioning.

Thus, in this article, I discuss the importance of healthy aging with a focus on the psychology of aging, and how psychological intervention in older age would promote health outcomes, life quality, and satisfaction. Moreover, while a strong predictor of health is found to influence biological aging, AI-based “psychological aging clocks” are presented, highly linked to health longevity and mental health, potentially aging reversers.

How do we age?

Fragile and grumpy? Wrinkles and greying hair? It’s all about genes? Thinking of aging and older adults, this is the image that most probably tends to be attributed, but it does not reflect the reality. Indeed, older people are better capable of regulating emotions, more conscientious, and agreeable. In addition, elders are happier, more mellow, grateful, and have a flexible mindset than midlife individuals. Last but not least, nowadays elders declare a better wealth and health status, and higher education compared to older people of past decades. However,  aging is a fact and cannot be neglected. Accordingly, aging is a multifactorial process in which the body and at the higher level, also cognitive functions are affected. Thus, a series of biological and physiological processes are involved which are prone to progressively decline. A few studies have already shown that a lower subjective age is related to higher psychological and physical health, cognitive abilities, wellbeing, and more generally life satisfaction [1].

Based on a US Census, by 2060 one-quarter of the population will be 65+ years old. Therefore, closer attention should be focused on well-being and mental health in later years of life. Particularly, improving cognitive decline, usually observed in dementia and Alzheimer's disease (AD), and physical health due to progressive motor disabilities and physical inactivity, became the major areas of interest when investigating aging (and related impairments) to promote health and a better quality of life. Moreover, the increased focus on improving the quality of care delivery services and a closer investigation of age-related cognitive and physical dysfunctions had the positive effect of having older individuals aged 65 or even older reporting fewer debilitating disorders, impairments, living in nursing homes, or in assisted-living arrangements. Besides, an increase in lifespan is also observed. Indeed, men are expected to live to around age 83, while women to age 85.

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