Sunday, April 20, 2014

Chronological Age... why do we use it as a measure of any kind?

Chronological Age... why do we use it as a measure of any kind?

Chronological age, the number of years or days a person has been alive is measured from the day we are born to one's present 'alive' date. For example, this past week I turned 66 years of age. I am now in my 67th year.

But what does either of these 'ages' really tell about the person... other than that they have survived for some number of years. We attach assumptions to one's age; wisdom for example seems to come with age... but absent knowledge of a person's education, life experiences, current health and well-being, one can't assume a person has wisdom.

When a person gets over some 'red-line' age, many of us assume that they are no longer 'with it'. A person of 80 years perhaps may be assumed to have no ability to drive a car; probably doesn't know how to use a computer or cell phone; and perhaps has become ill from 'old age'.

On the other end of life, a young person may not appear to have 'caring' as a part of their inner being. They may be assumed to be frivolous in their value processes. Certainly their decision making would be called into question by many of us that are 'older'.

Another problem with chronological age perhaps is that there is little that we can do to avoid all the assumptions the general population may associate with age... and the appearance of age... grey hair, some wrinkling of skin on the one hand; long hair, tattoos and body jewels on the other.

Perhaps we should be using a measure other than chronological age to measure a person. When today we are studying the relatively new measure of a country's progress on social scales (health, aging, education) called the Social Progress Index (SPI), that will be combined with the GDP or the measure of a country's material output... I recalled the measure of age called the Biological Age.

(Note: to read about SPI go to this link )

 If we can measure a country's SPI, perhaps we could measure a person's Biological Age... it has been done for years by healthcare professionals who are paid to appraise individuals of their progress toward fitness. In effect, a citizen would be submitted to various biological tests... blood tests, bone-density tests, flexibility tests, BMI studies, cardiovascular tests, brain function tests, psychological evaluations... and then be assigned a Biological Age.

Each of these many measurements of a person's biological profile that end up giving an age factor are potentially manageable. For example, with most blood studies, diet and exercise can make a difference. Other examples could include: with basic stretching exercises for minutes a day, flexibility can be improved; by doing brain exercises a person's mental agility can be developed; with 60 minutes of exercise a day a child can avoid some obesity factors.

If when a profile is done on a citizen, and a Biological Age is assigned, that person could then understand how to improve her/himself relative to quality of life, even though chronological life may not be impacted at all. The social impact on people could be significant... most who I have met feel better about themselves when they accomplish a biological goal that would likely impact their quality of life. But because we measure society based on chronological data, there is little incentive for folks to change their biological age.

We can take some of the measurements into our own hands. For example, flexibility has a significant impact on a person's quality of life. If one isn't routinely stretching muscles, tendons and ligaments there is the potential that when lifting something; avoiding something; or just maintaining a position for some hours, injury to a muscle could occur because an in-flexible body part tears. That injury could be debilitating and lead to a spiral that reduces other Biological Age components like cardiovascular exercise. Flexibility can be improved with a matter of minutes of stretches in the morning and during the day.

This is a personal issue since it clearly is not on the national agenda. When one looks at the SPI (Social Progress Index), it is clear that we in North America can be proud of the fact that we started and at one time lead many of the index measures... but also it is clear that we have fallen behind as countries have surpassed our efforts as we focused on less critical measures. Our countries' leadership needs to improve our SPI and in consequence, I suspect it will improve our GDP.

I am hoping that by refocusing our personal lives on Biological Age, we can as individuals, improve that which we can control ourselves. We start our lives as genetic combinations of our parents. Some biological factors can not be changed, but clearly they can be managed. That which gets measured, can be improved... let's not let societal factors relating to Chronological Age limit our ability to live more healthful lives and gain improved Biological Age.

Here are a couple of links that might be interesting on the subject of Biological Age



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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!