Stop acting your age to help prepare for your retirement

Two joyful senior gentlemen swinging on a swing and having fun isolated on white background

Image: buso23/

Updated: There are health and life benefits in acting younger than you are. And in thinking you are younger than you are. Are you up for it?

Research back in 1981

In 1981, Ellen Langer, a young psychologist, ran an experiment involving eight men in their 70 and 80s being sent into a time-warp situation. A monastery had been redecorated as if it were 1959—when the men were 22 years younger.

Langer didn’t publish the full results at the time because she feared she would not be believed. She’s now a Harvard professor.

The men were told to not only reminisce about this time in their lives but to live as if they were back there. They were to attempt to be the person they were 22 years earlier.

They were given ID cards with their photo on it from 22 years earlier. They were immersed in the 1950s with issues of the Saturday Evening Post, black-and-white television and a vintage radio available.

After five days of reliving their younger days, they were all tested for their physical strength, posture, perception, vision, cognition and memory before and after.

Results: In every measure they had improved! There was greater flexibility, better posture, improved hand strength, improved eye sight by 10%, improved memory by 10% and more than half had improved IQ scores.

One arrived at the monastery in a wheelchair and walked out with the aid of a cane. While waiting for the bus back to their retirement village, the 70-year-olds spontaneously started playing touch football.

Unbelievable! Which is why Langer didn’t  publish the full results back then.

How old do you feel?

A couple of years ago the Journal of the American Medical Association reported on research where 6489 individuals 52 years and older were asked how old they felt. The average real age was 65.8 years old. The average self-perceived age was 56.8 years.

For the statisticians, 69.6% felt three or more years younger than their age; 25.6% felt close to their actual age; and 4.8% felt a year or more older than they were.


The so comes in the death rate during the 99-month follow-up. Only 14.3% of those who felt younger than they were had died in that time; a higher percentage (18.5%) had died among those who felt they were the age they were; but almost a quarter (24.6%) of those who felt older than they were died in that time.

The report said: ‘After adjusting for all [variables], there remained a 41% greater mortality hazard in people who felt older than their actual age compared with those who felt younger than their actual age.’

How old do you feel?

What does this have to do with retirement?

If you’re thinking about retirement, it probably means you’re ageing.

There are times when you need to act your age, but not always. There are even times when you can act in a child-like way (not childish). The indicators are that there are benefits to acting younger than you are.

Feeling younger is about attitude. You and I both know that 60 is not really the new 40. But there’s the possibility that if we acted a bit younger, we would also feel younger.

It’s worth a try.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Attitude

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