Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Age Perception

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 17, 2011

 Tom,, twenty-four, told me about his new class entitled “The History of the Sixties.” “How old is your teacher?” I wondered, since for some, the sixties does not feel like history. “Oh, he is old, maybe early fifties,” Tom says, oblivious to how I might feel about such a comment. I was suddenly struck that in Tom’s eyes, I must be ‘old’. I understand that I am a parental figure in his eyes, and therefore, he sees me as a lot older than he is, but that he might see me as ‘old’ shocked me. My narcissism penetrated my thoughts. I wanted to stop his train of thought and remind him that I am not old, but of course, the conversation was not about me, or my age, but about how Tom is adjusting to being back in school. We returned to his life, his feelings about where he is going, and how he feels he does not measure up to the expectations of his parents. I thought about how Tom might perceive himself as younger than his stated age, given his feelings of inadequacies, and how he might perceive those who have a direction in life to be ‘older’. At the same time, I am aware that age, and feeling a certain age, is so subjective, so fascinating.

2 Responses to “Age Perception”

  1. Shelly said

    So people who have figured out their lives, have direction and have found meaning, are “older”; those who are still searching are “younger”. Maybe you should tell Tom that even us “oldies” sometimes wonder about our life choices and the paths we have taken, and we haven’t all figured it all out!

    And you’re right: It’s not only how old we are but how old we feel.

    • Not necessarily….I don’t really understand age perception, but I can imagine that a lot of factors go into it, including one’s level of responsibilities, reflections off one’s parents, self-esteem, and physical health. It is a mosaic, in which I am thinking about the component parts. Thanks, as always, for your comments.

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