10 min read

What is old?

What exactly does it mean to be an adult? Is it defined by a number, or does it have something to do with our responsibilities and capabilities? Does any of this, in fact, even contribute to feeling old at all?

Grandmother sitting on a wicker chair with grandson, reading from a picture book.

We were curious to see how real people, of all ages, viewed adulthood and being ‘old’. At what point do we really begin to associate ourselves as a ‘grown-ups’, what does feeling old even mean? With so many questions, we decided to turn to the public to gain a greater insight.

After surveying 1,129 participants and speaking, face-to-face, with people of various ages, we discovered that being an ‘adult’ certainly means more than the dictionary definition of ‘a person who is fully grown or developed.

Despite 18 being the perceived age of a grown-up, the majority of Brits actually consider 33 to be the age where they truly began to feel like an adult. As for being ‘old’, that apparently happens when you turn 62. But as Laura says in our video (below), “being old is more of a state of mind, than an actual figure” and so many of our participants agreed.

Funnily enough, 50% of our group of 5-7 year olds felt like grown-ups, twice as many as the group of 16-18 year olds and 3% more than our group of 41-50 year olds. The children’s comments revealed a lot about how we perceive age when we are young, and we have a few favourites:

  • You’re old “when you decide to be”
  • When you’re “a bit wrinkly”
  • When you can “read and write, and wear lippy”

Taking responsibility for actions and consequences, facing the problems you want to run away from and finding an appreciation for how quickly life changes were some of the reasons our older groups listed.

And why aren’t some of us grown-ups yet? Not knowing everything, having no children of our own and not being good at maths are just a handful of reasons youngsters used to explain why they didn’t feel like an adult.

We think aging is a wonderful thing, and there’s really no need to worry about getting older. According to Professor Jayne Raisborough, professor of media from Leeds Beckett University, being old is “to have lived” and to have “survived the rich joys and deep sorrows that make up all our lives.”

It’s something that shapes us and, as cliché as it sounds, we’re only ever as old as we feel.

Age really is just a number, after all.

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